LAS VEGAS (AP) – David Blatt learned plenty in his first season as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Most notably: It’s tougher to prepare in the NBA than he expected.
Blatt – a wildly successful coach in Europe before getting his long-awaited chance to lead an NBA team for the first time last season – was a panelist on Monday at a scouting school in Las Vegas, part of a group that was discussing some of the ways coaches prepare for games at various levels. And he detailed several differences between the European game and the NBA one.
“When I came to the NBA I was under the impression that this was going to be a breeze,” Blatt said. “I’ve been coaching for 23 years at the highest level in Europe. I coached in the national-team environment, coached professional teams, coached Euroleague teams and I thought I thought I knew basketball and I thought I knew how to coach. Which, in my mind, I did.
“But I realized that when I came over here it was a very, very different game with a whole new set of problems and a whole slew of things to deal with inside and outside of the game.”
He figured out some of it, apparently, on the fly. The Cavaliers struggled for the first half of the season, then wound up rolling to the Eastern Conference title behind LeBron James. They fell in the NBA Finals to Golden State, a loss that came with point guard Kyrie Irving out for most of the series and forward Kevin Love out for all of it because of injuries.
“We were playing every game with a different team,” Blatt said. “We started off with one team, then we lost one guy so we had to change a little bit of the way we played. Played a few more games and another guy went down, played with a different team, that guy came back, then all of sudden we were playing with half of our old team and it just kind of went like that as we went along.
“I’m really (angry) we didn’t play the final series with all of our players,” he added.
Blatt also spoke about how the schedule in the NBA is far more hectic than in Europe, and how that makes game-prepping a bigger challenge. He said European teams usually have about six full weeks to prepare for a season, while the NBA has rules limiting camp length and how many two-a-days can be part of the buildup to opening night.
“That’s because there’s not a players union over there and I sure as hell wish there wasn’t one over here either,” Blatt said, drawing some laughs. “We’re not allowed the luxury of calling guys in for formal workouts until a very specific date. Then, the moment we get them, we’re limited to four two-a-days in our preparation period which is somewhere between three and four weeks. We used to have four two-a-days in two days overseas.”