With the sudden firing of head coach David Blatt on Friday, the Cleveland Cavaliers locker room is a place of interest.
Was there really so much of a disconnect between Blatt and LeBron James that the first-place team in the Eastern Conference should have let go of a head coach that was on the sidelines for a run to the NBA Finals in 2015?
According to a big man who spent three months with the team last season, yes.
On January 5 of last year, Lou Amundson was sent from the Cavs to the New York Knicks as part of the trade that landed J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in Cleveland. Amundson re-signed with the Knicks in July.
According to the New York Post:
Before the Knicks’ 97-84 loss Saturday night to the Hornets, Amundson (who had two points and three rebounds in 13 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter) told The Post that Blatt didn’t command the respect of the locker room because he was too soft on James, among others.
“It’s hard for a rookie coach to come in and be in a situation like that where one guy [James] is such a big influence on a whole organization,’’ Amundson said. “That’s a tough position to be in. However, you need in that situation to be assertive and make sure your players know you’re going to hold them accountable, every one of them, and they’re going to respect you. In the NBA, coaching is more managing than coaching.
“It’s important to just be assertive and not let that happen. Hold everybody accountable, otherwise you lose respect and attention of your guys.’’
Amundson was traded from a team that was 19-16 at the time and would contend for a championship to a team that was 5-32 and coming off the 12th game in a 16-game losing stream
Still, he felt the Knicks locker room environment was tighter and more enjoyable.
“It didn’t feel like it should feel,’’ Amundson said. “A team with championship aspirations, that’s not how it was supposed to feel. Teams go through ups and downs, but I just think the atmosphere and energy wasn’t there. It wasn’t a healthy atmosphere. Teams go through issues, but it still feels you work through stuff being productive. In that disagreement, it didn’t feel like that. But they did manage to get it together.’’
Amundson knows a thing or two about locker rooms: he's played for 10 teams in his 10-year NBA career.
“I wasn’t happy there. I felt like my presence and contributions weren’t really valued,’’ Amundson said.
The UNLV alum is happy he's with the 22-24 Knicks and not the Cavs, who own a record of 30-12.
“You need experience in the NBA,’’ the veteran big man said. “The European League is a different deal. You don’t play as many games. It takes an adjustment. On a personal level, I was happy to see some change [getting traded]. It turned out a great thing for me.’’