Coach of the Second Trimester

Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

Coach of the Second Trimester: David Blatt, Cleveland Cavaliers

‎‎Nothing has changed in the grand scheme of the Coach of the Year race.

It's pretty much a two-man race that finds Golden State's Steve Kerr and Atlanta's Mike Budenholzer far removed from the rest of the profession and no easier to separate than they were when we covered this ground right around Christmas.‎

However ...

When focused strictly on the season's middle third, no coach enjoyed a more pleasurable or productive spell than Blatt.

The Cavs were 19-20 on Jan. 15. The subject of Blatt's connectivity with his players, and thus his job security, was a fixture of the daily NBA discourse. ‎The position in which he finds himself now, in charge of the team most Las Vegas oddsmakers suddenly favor to win this season's championship, seemed unimaginable at the time.

But Blatt survived the storms. Not unlike his final season at perennial European power Maccabi Tel Aviv. He was nearly fired after an unfathomable 4-3 start in Israeli League play and then rallied all the way to last May's Euroleague crown.

He has gotten a lot of help from Cavs general manager David Griffin, who showed Blatt an enormous amount of support by first emphatically announcing that the rookie coach's job was not under threat and then making trades to acquire big man Timofey Mozgov and the guard duo of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. The Cavs have been a different team ever since.

It also hasn't hurt that LeBron James -- whose apparent lack of interest in the new-to-the-NBA coach's message wasn't hard to spot in the days and weeks before the hiatus LeBron took right around his 30th birthday -- has been noticeably more engaged since his return.‎

Tougher tests for Blatt, of course, are bound to come in the playoffs, when these Cavs get their first taste of adversity -- maybe a bad loss or a series deficit or perhaps just a debatable crunch-time decision -- and he experiences a new level ‎of NBA scrutiny. Yet you have to say that it's been somewhat unfair to Blatt that so little has been said over these past few months about how well he rebounded ‎from his early-season duress.