The NBA playoffs might have been boring, but the NBA offseason has been anything but. Another day, another NBA bomb. And this time, it was Cavs chairman Dan Gilbert dropping the bomb and dropping the axe on GM David Griffin.
Yesterday, he released a statement that read: ‘The Cleveland Cavaliers and its General Manager, David Griffin, have mutually decided not to extend David’s current contract, which ends June 30, 2017. On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Griff for his leadership and many contributions during his time here, including most recently, his role in the franchise’s first NBA Championship. We have no announcement at this time related to new leadership of the Cavaliers basketball operations group, but we are confident our current front office will continue to aggressively explore and pursue opportunities to improve our team in the weeks ahead.’
You’d think bringing a title to Cleveland would’ve guaranteed David Griffin a gig for life. Apparently not. It got him exactly 12 more months because on the one year anniversary of the day they won the first title in franchise history, David Griffin leaves.
Three years on the job, three trips to the Finals, and the GM is out the door.
And before you come in here with your tired “LeBron is the real GM of that team” check yourself.
Sure, LeBron has a ton of sway in that organization and helps attract players, but LeBron wasn’t the guy figuring out how to turn Dion Waiters and some spare parts into JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov, who all played huge roles in last year’s title.
Just like LeBron’s not the guy who figured out how to trade for Kyle Korver this year and save money in the process. He’s not getting into the weeds of protected draft picks, cap space, and mutli-team deals. David Griffin is practically the LeBron James of trade exceptions.
From the moment LeBron announced he was coming back, Griffin was rebuilding that roster on the fly starting with the Kevin Love deal. Of the 7 guys who played more than 19 minutes in Game 7 of the Finals last year, Griffin brought in four of them. That’s not building the plane you fly , that’s ripping off the wings and the nose while it’s still in the air.
He’s also the guy who had the stones to fire David Blatt when he was 30-11 and coming off a trip to the Finals, and replace him with Ty Lue, who only led the team to the NBA title in his first season as a head coach at any level.
Was it about money? Griffin was making less than half of what most GM’s make. If a guy helps you get to three straight Finals and wins you a title, maybe you chip him off a few extra bones. In fact, maybe you do everything in your power to keep him in that job. Maybe you give him a blank check and tell him to fill his own amount.
So is Griffin leaving because they couldn’t agree about the direction of the franchise? Maybe. That’s been hinted at, but what could Griffin have been suggesting that was so radical or crazy that Gilbert just couldn’t keep him around?
Was it so that Gilbert could bring in Chauncey Billups to play a role? Maybe. Look, Mr. Big Shot is a great leader, a really good analyst, and his name has come up for other gigs. But he has no experience and moving on from a title-winning GM for that is a huge role of the dice. Especially with LeBron entering a contract year and free agency being about two weeks off.
Maybe we’ll find that out. Maybe we won’t. In the meantime, here’s a thought: when you’ve gone to three straight Finals, maybe you don’t take a flamethrower to the place. Especially when LeBron James could be a free agent next summer. LeBron has changed. But Gilbert obviously hasn’t and this dude is once again trying fix what ain’t broke. In doing so, he risks breaking it into a million pieces all over again.
And if LeBron was looking for some cover or maybe a reason to leave again, he now has it. Maybe Gilbert feels like LeBron won’t bounce again. Maybe, since he has his ring now, he doesn’t care if LeBron goes. Which is probably a good thing, because what is clear is that LeBron’s not content with just bringing a world championship to Cleveland. He wants another ring. Or rings.
And if he feels like there’s better opportunity to get it somewhere else, he’ll bounce again. Because he already did what he set out to do when he returned to Cleveland. Gilbert is playing with fire here and is once again on the verge of going pyro and burning his house down all over again. Next time, you want to make a move like that, Dan, check with your boss, LeBron first.