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LeBron James shouldn't have to bow down to his coach

David Blatt must earn LeBron James' respect, not the other way around.

Marc Stein was not the first reporter to point out that LeBron James does not seem to respect coach David Blatt all that much. Stein's colleague Brian Windhorst has been all over that story all season long, as has the Akron Beacon Journal's Jason Lloyd. And let's be honest: it's pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention that LeBron has remained unimpressed by his coach all season long. This is not exactly a secret.

What made Stein's report so notable was the adjudication embedded within. Stein presents a couple of extraordinarily believable anecdotes -- LeBron shaking off a Blatt whiteboard play, LeBron huddling with associate head coach Ty Lue and calling timeouts himself -- and asserts that this behavior is unbecoming and suggestive that James is not the leader he believes himself to be. As Stein asks, who on the Cavaliers can fully respect the coach when the team's best player treats him like a substitute teacher?

Must a star be obliged to bow to his coach, though? Is respect earned or granted in the NBA?

Despite his European success, Blatt is an NBA rookie that didn't play or coach in the league. What has Blatt done in this country and in his personal approach with LeBron to suggest that the greatest player on the planet, a four-time MVP and a two-time NBA champion, should defer? What reverence for the position of head coach is actually required of our brightest basketball stars?

Stein presents Tim Duncan's deference to Gregg Popovich as a model; in reality, it's an aberration. No other superstar has submitted himself to a coach's control like that, and we shouldn't expect all superstars to follow Duncan's lead. The obvious reason? We're talking about Gregg Popovich, one of the NBA's smartest, most charismatic coaches ever. Nothing Blatt has done suggests he's on the level of Popovich.

In addition, part of Duncan's historic greatness is his deference to Popovich and willingness to adapt. That's never been part of what makes LeBron the best of his generation. What about David Blatt should make that change now?

It's not as if Blatt is the first coach to struggle earning LeBron's respect. We have history of LeBron's relationships with coaches to light a lamp here. We have the Erik Spoelstra story, one in which LeBron clashed with the young, green coach early on, found common ground and won titles. How did Spo and LeBron come to succeed together? LeBron challenged Spoelstra's ideas, accepted the ones that worked and plowed ahead.

This isn't remotely new with LeBron or the NBA. There is a clear path for Blatt to earn LeBron's respect, and that path is simply to be better at his job.

This isn't to say Blatt isn't good. He deserves a good deal of credit for leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, particularly with his staff's work on defensive schemes late in the season and into the playoffs. One imagines that once LeBron decompresses and reviews the season, he'll come to appreciate Blatt's role in the success a little more.

But it could also be the case that Lue is more responsible for the defensive improvement, and that LeBron -- again, a four-time MVP and two-time champion -- actually knows where the Cavaliers' bread is buttered. Stein asks LeBron to defer to Blatt because of Blatt's official title and because of the teamwide ramifications of LeBron's disrespect. Shouldn't we defer to LeBron because of LeBron's accomplishments? What more must LeBron do to earn the benefit of the doubt from observers that he knows what he's doing?

Go back to January, when Cleveland was below .500 and LeBron took two weeks off to rest. A few games after he returned, he essentially scrapped Blatt's ill-fitting system and dubbed himself the point guard. He flourished. Kyrie Irving flourished. The Cavaliers flourished.

The trades made by David Griffin improved the roster a substantial amount, yes. But don't try to argue that LeBron, Kyrie and eventually Kevin Love found harmony because of Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. They found defensive progress with that group.

The offense became powerful because LeBron is the best player on the planet and he took over the playmaking duties. He reintroduced the world to heavy doses of the single most powerful play of the past eight years: the high pick-and-roll, starring LeBron James. Watching Cleveland and focusing on the play instead of the huddles, LeBron did more to develop Kyrie's game than any suit on the sidelines has or could.

The results are plain. When LeBron took control of the on-court product -- when he openly discounted Blatt's authority by changing everything about the team's style -- the Cavaliers became awesome. So why again should we be offended that LeBron continued to exert his will in the Finals?

This is where I note that I think Stein is really great, really fair and an excellent human being. I'm also a big fan of Windhorst. I found the inclusion of this passage in Stein's story immensely problematic.

My colleague Brian Windhorst, who ranks as the most credentialed LeBronologist there is after shadowing James since his teens, went on SVP & Russillo on Wednesday and posited that No. 23 actually wouldn't mind if the Euroleague import keeps coaching the Cavs because he "likes having Blatt to kick around."

First, nothing Windhorst or Stein has reported equates to LeBron "kicking around" Blatt. Disagreeing with strategies and commandeering the offense is not "kicking around" the coach. If James has actually bullied Blatt personally, let's hear it. The suggestion that LeBron wants to keep a coach the reporters say he doesn't respect solely for the amusement of "kicking him around" is a pretty serious charge not backed up at all in the reporting.

Let's also not pretend LeBron is the only Cavalier at odds with Blatt. Love was openly perturbed by the coach and his situation throughout the season. At times it looked like a discordant triangle: Love didn't like the way Blatt used him or LeBron's ball dominance, LeBron didn't like Blatt's system or Love's resistance to sacrifice, Blatt and his minions complained about both to the media (and then complained when the media reported on it).

But Love and LeBron seem to have ironed things out. LeBron and Blatt were tenable. For whatever theoretical harm all that clashing did, the Cavaliers were still two wins away from a championship.

It would be great if all humans were kinder and more empathetic toward neighbors, friends and coworkers. (This is essentially what Blatt and James are: coworkers. Suggesting any coach or general manager or executive is LeBron's "boss" at this point is hopelessly, hilariously naive.) LeBron could certainly be less demonstrative toward Blatt, less obvious in his lack of faith. He could be more like Tim Duncan.

But that is not LeBron. Just as J.R. Smith will never take only smart shots, just as Love will never be a stud defender, just as Matthew Dellavedova will never have any chill whatsoever on the court, LeBron will never be someone who defers to authority because that's what a nicer person would do.

Some of us find that rejection of the institution of authority a bit refreshing. Broader society prefers our greatest performers be humble. In that regard, LeBron will never please you. Howl at the moon in an attempt to get him to change, or accept it.

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