The Cleveland Cavaliers made the shocking move Friday of firing head coach David Blatt.
Despite guiding the Cavaliers to the Finals last year and helping the Cavs build a firm lead for first place in the Eastern Conference this year, the Cavs and Blatt never seemed to have a strong relationship.
Though the timing of the move came as a total surprise, that the Cavs decided to move on from Blatt seemed somewhat inevitable, as multiple reports confirm.
Perhaps the first nail in Blatt's coffin was that LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland in 2014. Blatt had been hired before James' return to help develop a young team that at the time was centered around Kyrie Irving and 2014 No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Instead, James returned, then orchestrated a trade for Kevin Love, and later the Cavs added veterans in J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov.
As one source told ESPN, "David was hired to coach a developmental team and young players who would've wanted to please him. He ended up coaching a finished product where the players expected him to please them."
Another problem from the outset was the view of Blatt's record. Blatt coached several highly successful teams overseas and won several championships. Yet, to NBA players, Blatt was a rookie. ESPN notes that Kyrie Irving playfully called Blatt a "virgin" of the NBA after Blatt won his first game as Cavs head coach. Blatt often felt disrespected by the perception that he was a rookie head coach, telling media last season, "I've been a head coach for 22 years. People overlook that too easily and, I think, unfairly. I am not now, nor have I have been for quite some time, a rookie coach."
See photos of LeBron James
LeBron James through the years
Damning reports reveal how little respect LeBron James and the Cavs had for David Blatt
U.S. men's national basketball team forward LeBron James pauses during a media availability before a practice, Sunday, July 15, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Akron Saint Vincent-Saint Mary's LeBron James celebrates with his mother, Gloria James, Saturday, March 15, 2003, after a win against Ottwa-Glandorf during the Ohio High School Athletic Association Boys' basketball Reginal Tournament in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/J.D. Pooley)
NBA draft candidate LeBron James answers reporters' questions in Chicago, Sunday, June 8, 2003. The Cleveland Cavaliers have said they will take James with the first pick in the NBA draft. (AP Photo/Aynsley Floyd)
LeBron James goes up for layup during the first half of Magic's All-Star Charity Game on Sunday, July 27, 2003 in Los Angeles. James, a 1st round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers, played for the Rookies team against a squad of veterans at Staples Center. The Rookies won 127-123. James had 23 points for the game. (AP Photo/Chris Urso)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) drives the ball as Miami Heat's Lamar Odum follows in the first quarter Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2003, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James grimices in pain as he is attended to by athletic trainer Max Benton during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz Saturday, Jan. 17, 2004, in Salt Lake City. James had to leave the game with an injured right ankle.(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
U.S. basketball player LeBron James of Cleveland Cavaliers plays with the ball during a U.S. basketball team practice in Cologne, western Germany, Monday Aug. 2, 2004. The U.S. team is preparing for upcoming matches against Italy and Germany and for the Olympics in Athens. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James dives for a loose ball during the second quarter against the Chicago Bulls, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004, in Chicago. The Bulls won 113-85. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
United States' Lebron James reacts after scoring a point during their game against Australia in the basketball preliminary round match at Hellinikon Indoor Arena, Thursday Aug. 19, 2004, at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. U.S. beat Australia 89-79. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) drives around Atlanta Hawks' Antoine Walker during the second quarter Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2005, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James looks on during the third quarter of their game with the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2005, at the Rose Garden, in Portland, Ore. James had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to become the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Trail Blazers 107-101 Wednesday night to send Portland to its fifth straight loss. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
LeBron James holds his left ankle as trainer Max Benton, top, tends to the Cleveland Cavlaiers star after James was injured in the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005, in Cleveland. James traveled with his teammates to New York and may play Friday night against the Knicks after further medical tests did not reveal any more damage to his ankle. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James Monday, Oct. 3, 2005, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) looks for a teammate to pass to as New Jersey Nets' Bostjan Nachbar (7), from Slovenia, watches in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James reacts to a shot made by teammate Anderson Varejao during the final seconds of the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 10, 2007, in Milwaukee. The Cavaliers won, 94-92. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James looks at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards during their first-round NBA playoff basketball game on Sunday, April 30, 2006, in Washington. The Wizards won 106-96. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) dunks in the last second of the first quarter during an NBA basketball game against the New Jersey Nets Thursday, April 12, 2007, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
United States' LeBron James holds the first-place trophy during an award ceremony after a FIBA Americas Championship gold medal basketball game against Argentina at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007. USA won the game, 118-81. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James holds up his New York Yankees hat during the fourth inning of Game 1 of an American League Division Series baseball game between the Yankees and Cleveland Indians Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, pressures Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who passes the ball, in the third quarter during their preseason basketball game in Boston, Friday, Oct. 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) creates a cloud of dust after he clapped his powder-coated hands together prior to the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
East All-Star LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks over West All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, bottom right, of the Dallas Mavericks during the fourth quarter of the NBA All-Star Basketball Game Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008, in New Orleans. James was named the game's MVP as the East won 134-128. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James wipes his face during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA Eastern Conference semifinal basketball series against the Boston Celtics in Boston on Tuesday, May 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, second from right, yells at his mother, Gloria, left, who left her seat after a foul on James by Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce, second from left, in the second quarter of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals Monday, May 12, 2008, in Cleveland. Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett is on the right. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Team USA basketball player Lebron James is shown during stretching exercises at practice at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008. 2008. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James shouts after dunking against the Detroit Pistons in the second half of a first-round NBA playoff basketball game Friday, April 24, 2009, in Auburn Hills, Mich. The Cavaliers defeated the Pistons 79-68 to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) and Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard tangle under the basket in the first quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals Wednesday, May 20, 2009, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, jokes with Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade in the second quarter during an NBA basketball game in Miami, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, middle, is defended by Indiana Pacers guard T.J. Ford, right, and forward Danny Granger during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. Cleveland won 105-95. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James reacts during the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 25, 2009, in Los Angeles. The Cavaliers won 102-87. (AP Photo/Lori Shepler)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, celebrates with center J.J. Hickson during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons in an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Cleveland won 113-101. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James talks to teammate Anderson Varejao during the first quarter of Game 3 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, April 22, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LeBron James (6), Dwyane Wade (3) and Chris Bosh (1) show off their Miami Heat jerseys at the American Airlines Arena in Miami Friday July 9, 2010. To the right is Miami Heat owner Micky Arison. (AP Photo/J.Pat Carter)
Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) drives around Charlotte Bobcats' Nazr Mohammed during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Miami, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. The Bobcats won 102-96. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Miami Heat forward LeBron James reacts to his dunk against the Phoenix Suns during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Miami Heat's LeBron James throws powder into the air prior to the team's NBA preseason basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010 in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) works between Atlanta Hawks' Josh Powell, left, and Jamal Crawford in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Monday, April 11, 2011, in Atlanta. Miami won 98-90. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Miami Heat's LeBron James watches his shot through the net during Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Thursday, June 2, 2011, in Miami. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip; Pool)
Miami Heat's Udonis Haslem, left, and Mario Chalmers, right, check on teammate LeBron James (6) after he took a fall during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Miami, Tuesday, March 20, 2012. The Heat defeated the Suns 99-95. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) dunks as Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook (0) and Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) watch during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) blocks a shot by San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) of Brazil, during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball game, Sunday, June 9, 2013 in Miami. The Miami Heat won 103-84. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) is helped from the court by guard Mario Chalmers (15), guard Dwyane Wade (3), Erik Spoelstra, front, right, and Rashard Lewis, right rear, during the second half in Game 1 of the NBA basketball finals on Thursday, June 5, 2014 in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James grabs his head after a foul by the Phoenix Suns during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, in Phoenix. Looking at James are Matthew Dellavedova (8) and Tristan Thompson (13). (AP Photo/Matt York)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates after end of the overtime period of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. The Cavaliers won 95-93 in overtime. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A wound is seen on the head Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the second half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Cleveland, Thursday, June 11, 2015. James was injured in the first half. The Golden State Warriors won 103-82. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) hangs his head during the second half of Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Cleveland, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
NBA player LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, accepts the award for best championship performance at the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
However, as players grew disenchanted with Blatt's performance as coach, assistant coach Tyronn Lue (once a candidate for the coaching job before Blatt was hired) became a central focus of LeBron and the Cavs. Players respected Lue as a former player, and Lue often had to handle aspects of coaching that Blatt couldn't handle, such as timeouts. James often consulted with Lue over Blatt during games.
Additionally, LeBron began to take play-calling into his own hands. He admitted last year that he was above asking coaches to change roles on the floor, and he often would verbally disagree with Blatt's play-calling. As Wojnarowski writes, "As the games wore on, opposing players on the floor weren't only watching James constantly wave off plays from the coach – but role players feeling emboldened to disregard the head coach's instructions, too."
Furthermore, ESPN reports that players were in a fairly upfront rebellion of Blatt. Windhorst and McMenamin say Cavs players would complain about Blatt to opposing players during games. On the road, a Cavs player once used the home team's therapy pool and loudly complained about Blatt's coach, "his thoughts literally echoing throughout the home locker room."
Last season, the pressure on Blatt lessened once the Cavs began winning, and he proved adept at integrating new members of the team into the offensive and defensive schemes. ESPN says players also generally had a better attitude coming into this season, as several of them earned monster contracts in the offseason — which Wojnarowski reports is part of LeBron's overall control over the organization.
However, this season, slip-ups against the Warriors (twice) and the Spurs, plus some grievances over playing time among role players, opened up old wounds, according to ESPN. During a road trip in which the Cavs only went 2-2 against lackluster competition, LeBron made an ominous statement about biting his tongue after a bad loss: "Thank God we play in the NBA, with a game the next day, and not the NFL. Because if it was the NFL, I would have went off and let the quotes fester for a week."
According to ESPN, during the road trip, Cavs veteran James Jones approached Cavs GM David Griffin and said, "I wouldn't want to be you," referring to the decisions Griffin had to make to manage a team unhappy with its coach.
Eventually, despite an impressive win over the L.A. Clippers, Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert decided it was time to move on from Blatt, noticing a disharmonious locker room. In his place, they promoted Lue, giving him a three-year deal in the meantime.
Wojnarowski reports of LeBron's overall influence, "LeBron James and [agent] Rich Paul never had to walk into the GM's office and demand the firing of the coach. All together, they had the capability of making everyone's life hell until the deed was done."
Now, LeBron and the Cavs have a coach they respect, while LeBron has a cast around him that he demanded. However, Blatt, the scapegoat, is no longer there to blame.
Ranking the best court designs in the NBA
Best NBA court designs
Damning reports reveal how little respect LeBron James and the Cavs had for David Blatt
30. Oklahoma City Thunder
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
29. Los Angeles Clippers
(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
28. Houston Rockets
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
27. Detroit Pistons
(Photo by J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
26. Miami Heat
(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
25. New Orleans Pelicans
(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
24. San Antonio Spurs
(Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
23. Chicago Bulls
(Photo by Jeffrey Phelps/NBAE via Getty Images)
22. Minnesota Timberwolves
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
21. Phoenix Suns
(Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
20. Utah Jazz
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
19. Cleveland Cavaliers
(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
18. Memphis Grizzlies
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
17. Denver Nuggets
(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
16. Indiana Pacers
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
15. Washington Wizards
(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
14. Dallas Mavericks
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
13. Sacramento Kings
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
12. Orlando Magic
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
11. Atlanta Hawks
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
10. Golden State Warriors
(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
9. Portland Trail Blazers
(Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images)
8. Philadelphia 76ers
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
7. Toronto Raptors
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
6. New York Knicks
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)