The David Blatt era in Cleveland is officially underway. Last night, the star-studded Cleveland Cavaliers defeated coach David Blatt’s visiting former team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80 in front of a sold-out and ecstatic crowd at Quicken Loans Arena.
The unusual match-up comes after an extremely busy summer for the Cavs—and for Blatt.
When David Blatt was hired to coach the NBA team in June, LeBron James and Kevin Love hadn’t yet been signed to the squad, and it seemed Blatt’s main goal would be simply to get his new team to the playoffs. But then James, newly a free agent, surprised many when he announced he would be returning to the team that drafted him in 2003, and to the city he always called home.
Once LeBron signed his deal, several other star players expressed interest in playing with the four-time MVP in Ohio. After weeks of speculation, the Cavs made one of the most interesting trades in NBA history when they released Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first round pick for the Minnesora Timberwolves’ Kevin love. Suddenly Blatt’s squad consisted of three superstars, and and his formerly middling team quickly became an NBA title favorite.
And last night, in a Cavs preseason exhibition game against Maccabi Tel Aviv, David Blatt became the first Israeli to coach an NBA team.
He admitted was nervous for his first game as head coach, though it wasn’t the pressure of coaching his new superstars that was getting to him—it was who they were facing. “I was nervous before the game, but not because it was the first time that I coached in an NBA environment, but because of the fact that I was playing against my friends,” Blatt said after the game.
“If you have a brother and you go to play outside on a basketball court, you’re dying to beat him, but if you do, you feel like crap,” he added.
Unfortunately for Blatt—and Maccabi—the Cavs put on a show for their hometown fans and beat the Tel Aviv team by nearly 30 points. After the game, Blatt tried to make the best of the friendly match-up.
“It doesn’t make you feel good,” he said, “There was no way to really win that game. I just hoped that we could have a good match and both teams would get out of it what they wanted. More or less that’s what happened.”
Now that Blatt has faced Maccabi, the real pressure begins.
Raphael Gellar is a freelance football and basketball journalist covering Israeli sports and international football. He tweets at @raphael_gellar.