Ricky Hickman. Tyrese Rice. Alex Tyus. Devin Smith.
Those were the biggest names on David Blatt’s Maccabi Tel Aviv roster last season.
Now Blatt is known to the world as the guy who’ll be drawing up plays for LeBron James next season, barely two months removed from leading Maccabi to an improbable Euroleague title with a roster that, in the words of one admiring Western Conference general manager, was "outgunned at every position except coach."
Blatt's recent hot streak, furthermore, shows little signs of cooling.
NBA coaching sources tell ESPN.com that Blatt, like the majority of his peers, has a number of incentives in his new contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers contingent on regular-season and playoff success. Yet sources say that the incentives, over the life of the contract, could be worth up to $10 million, which is suddenly significant because Blatt figures to do a lot more winning than we might have projected a week ago after LeBron's blockbuster announcement that he's coming back to play for his home-state Cavs.
Even though I've been following the Boston-area native’s coaching career pretty closely for a good decade, I was one of those know-it-alls who thought Blatt -- despite his consistent success everywhere he coached in Europe -- would have to serve an assistant coach in the NBA first if he ever hoped to get a head-coaching shot in the country of his birth.
It's a theory formed from hearing those exact same whispers from various executives around the league, who bought into the notion that Blatt needed to spend a couple seasons here building his name up as a "hot assistant" before getting his shot, since the overwhelming majority of NBA players had never heard of him as recently as late May.
But Cleveland gambled on Blatt's unquestioned strategic chops within a month of Maccabi's fairy-tale run to the Euroleague crown and awarded him a three-year deal with a team option entering Year 4. Now it's a deal, thanks to LeBron, that has the potential to pay Blatt even more than he thought if the James-led Cavs win as much as Las Vegas oddsmakers seem to think they will.
As of Monday, according to the latest odds from the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino, Cleveland's 4-1 odds to win the 2015 NBA championship trailed only San Antonio's 7-2 odds.