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Book excerpt: Dribbles of Champions

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Excerpted from Dribbles of Champions: Selected Tales from the Cleveland Cavaliers' Remarkable Run to the Title by Sam Amico.

Book can be purchased online at Amazon.

Blatt tries to calm Cavs' title hype

October 23, 2015

CLEVELAND -- David Blatt rolls his eyes and shrugs.

Blatt is the Cavaliers' coach, and he is well aware GMs across the league have selected his team as the NBA's next champion.

And he doesn't particularly want to hear it.

"What do GMs know anyway?" Blatt asks.

Now, the second-year coach is just having a little fun. But his point is clear: There are still games to be played, and lots of them.

Blatt is talking about a league-wide survey in which all 30 GMs are asked to make several predictions -- from NBA MVP to Rookie of the Year to yes, the league's next lords of the championship ring.

Most GMs know it's just a guessing game. Most coaches know that a number of factors, and not just talent, are often the difference between winning it all.

Perhaps no one understands that more than Blatt. He learned fast that things such as needing time to adapt and injuries to key players can alter expectations quickly and considerably.

So predictions about what might happen in June? Hey, Blatt can live without.

"We're not even talking about that right now," he says. "We're talking about how we can get everyone on the same page and get all our players back. We're talking about working hard and making day-to-day progress."

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Blatt and LeBron James propelled the Cavs to the finals in their first season together. This despite the fact everything was new at this time last year. Blatt was a first-time NBA coach, James was returning after four years with Miami, and Kevin Love was just joining after a successful run in Minnesota.

On top of all that, younger holdovers such as Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters were still learning how to win after several seasons of missing the playoffs. Later, Waiters was traded, and J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov arrived.

So the Cavs had to start over in January, but not long after the Waiters deal, things really started to click. Not long after that, the playoffs tipped off.

Then Love went down in the first round with a shoulder injury. Then Irving was lost for the finals with a banged up knee.The bad news never seemed to end.

James tried with all his might to carry the Cavs to their first title -- but despite an otherworldly individual performance, the Cavs succumbed to Golden State in six difficult games.


Today, some of the injuries linger.

Love is slowly working his way back after five months off. Irving remains out and is likely to miss the season's first four weeks, possibly more. Shumpert could be out until February following wrist surgery. And Mozgov has indicated his knee is not 100 percent.

Oh, and no less than James himself just took an anti-inflammatory injection to his lower back.

"We're being especially careful and conscientious with him," Blatt says. "He's going to be fine. But it's only wise to take it slowly, carefully."

On the bright side, James and Love both say they expect to play in the season-opener at Chicago. The Cavs are also happy about the returns of Thompson (contract holdout) and Anderson Varejao (Achilles surgery), and the additions of veterans Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson.

Still, while the survey of general managers and their projections for the Cavs are nice, Blatt knows lots can happen between the time the season starts and when it actually matters most.

"That's all for very far down the road," he says. "It's nice, sure. But our main focus is strictly on becoming a good team right now."

Sam Amico is the founding editor of You can buy Dribbles of Championsat Amazon.