When the Cleveland Cavaliers parted ways with general manager David Griffin on June 19th, it was really strange. Considering the guy had made the moves that led you to three straight Finals and the first NBA title in franchise history, why wouldn’t you do everything possible to keep him around? But then Chauncey Billups’ name emerged as a candidate for the job and there was a sense that maybe Dan Gilbert had something up his sleeve.
When Chauncey Billups withdrew his name from consideration for the Cavs job on July 3rd, it was really strange. Considering he was the guy who had been the favorite to get the job and that this is a crucial time of year and that you’d want to have someone in place to show that there’s stability, attract free agents, and begin the process of doing whatever it took to keep LeBron in Cleveland, why wouldn’t you do everything possible to bring Billups on board? But then reports came out last night and there was a sense that Dan Gilbert had something up his sleeve.
According to Chris Haynes and Marc Spears, the something that was up Dan Gilbert’s sleeve was a ridiculously lowball offer to Billups.
According to their report, the Cavs offered Billups $2 million a year, which is half what most guys in that job get. And that was after they opened with an offer of $1.5 million. WAIT, WHAT?
This is the guy you’ve targeted for the job, a potential rising star in the biz: and you low-ball him? Actually, you don’t low-ball him, you barely make him an offer. Why stop at offering him less than half the market rate, why not just call it an internship and see if he’ll do it for college credit and free snacks in the breakroom? That’s just insulting. And no one with any self-respect at all, is accepting that gig.
And before you say, hey, Rome, I’d happily do that job for 1.5 million, I’m sure you would. That’s not the point. You’re not qualified to do that gig. But you are qualified to do yours. Now ask yourself, would you happily do your job for less than half what everyone is getting to do the same job. Hell no.
And yes, I’m aware of the fact that Billups has never been a general manager or president of basketball operations before. Neither has Rob Pelinka and reports suggest that he’s getting in the neighborhood of $5 mill per year. And Phil Jackson was being paid more than double that, 12 mill a year, to burn Madison Square Garden to the ground, thumb out dumb tweets, fall asleep in workouts, and make the Knicks an international laughingstock. In fact, he’s still being paid that amount NOT to work.
And Dan Gilbert, who is sitting on an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with LeBron James, wants to lowball his front office candidates. Brilliant. Freaking brilliant. The reason why the Cavs have that title is because of the luck that LeBron was born in Akron and not Tucson or Denver or San Jose. The reason they have that title is because David Griffin made a number of smart moves and Ty Lue coached his ass off. Dan Gilbert just signed checks. And apparently pretty small ones at that to the guys in the front office.
Why don’t you just pack up LeBron’s stuff for him and print off an itinerary for his free agent visits next season while you’re at it? Because LeBron wants more than one ring in Cleveland and nothing says “we’re happy with one ring in Cleveland” more than dumping a great GM because he didn’t want to be paid well below market value and then offering his replacement and crappier deal.
What kind of message does that send about Gilbert’s willingness to compete and his desire to win? If there’s already a risk that LeBron might leave, who’s going to want that gig if they know they’ll be underpaid and probably get blamed when LeBron walks.
For his part, Billups has taken the high road, telling The Undefeated: “First and foremost, my family was 100 percent behind me taking the job. It didn’t come down to that at all. At the end of the day, after carefully looking at the entire situation, I just felt it wasn’t the time. It’s that simple. I’ve got a ton of respect for Dan and the Cavs organization. But now just wasn’t the time. These kinds of decisions go down to a gut thing and my spirit. It just wasn’t time.”
Hell no it wasn’t time. Not if the guy cutting your check didn’t want to cut you a check. There will be other opportunities for Billups, no need to settle. Although it’s insane to think that Gilbert has mismanaged this to the point that being the President of Basketball Ops for the three-time Eastern Conference champions and a team led by LeBron is settling. But it is, because that’s the vibe that Dan Gilbert’s putting out there.
You can’t tell me that LeBron hasn’t been taking mental notes since the end of the season, watching what his team is doing and what every other contending team is doing, and he isn’t starting to think about other places to play. And I don’t blame him one bit.