NBA: Cavs worry about player response to Blatt - report

Cleveland Cavaliers bosses are questioning first-year NBA coach David Blatt`s ability to motivate players, ESPN reported on Monday.

Citing unnamed league sources, the US-based sports telecaster`s website reported that there is concern about how much players are listening to Blatt, a 55-year-old American who guided Russia to 2012 Olympic bronze and Maccabi Tel Aviv to a Euroleague crown before being hired by the Cavaliers last June.

Blatt arrived weeks before four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James left Miami to return to his home region club in the quest of bringing a major sports crown to Cleveland, which has not had such a champion in half a century.

The Cavaliers are 18-12 but lost 103-80 at home Sunday to Detroit, which has lost 23 of 30 games, and 127-98 to Atlanta two weeks ago.

Some things are clearly out of Blatt`s control. Cleveland is without injured Australian guard Kyrie Irving, absent with a sore left knee, and Brazilian big man Anderson Varejao, who is out for the remainder of the season after surgery on a torn Achilles tendon.

Asked Sunday if he was concerned he might be losing control of the team, Blatt replied: "I`m not concerned about that at all. I`m concerned with how we are playing."

James, who turns 30 on Tuesday, has assumed a leadership role since his arrival and made his unhappiness clear after Sunday`s loss.

"We`re not a very good team," he said. "As far as on the court, we`re still trying to find our way as well. We`ve won some good games. we`ve lost some games. But right now, we`re just not very good in every aspect of the game that we need to be to compete every night."

Player substitution patterns were questioned early in the season as Blatt tried to work with different alignments to find combinations that worked. The Cavaliers had to become accustomed to each other after bringing in James and star big man Kevin Love from Minnesota to join Irving and the rest of the roster. 

The latest struggles follow injuries but still leave James and Love in search of answers.

"I can`t tell you what it was," Love said. "We need to play better in front of our home crowd. It`s just unacceptable."

Blatt says the team needs to adjust to the injuries.

"We lost some pretty important players," Blatt said Sunday. "You have to be more determined and more competitive and fight your way through that or else this happens. It`s not an excuse. it`s just an explanation."

The ESPN report said various players have not paid attention to Blatt during timeout huddles, instead preferring to communicate with former NBA player Tyronn Lue, a Cavaliers assistant coach.