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David Griffin defends Cavaliers’ pursuit of John Calipari

Aug 28, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

David Griffin AP

The No. 1 reason LeBron James signed with the Cavaliers is because he was born in Northeast Ohio. The No. 1 reason Kevin Love approved a trade to the Cavaliers was because LeBron had already signed.

So, Cleveland’s great offseason was set in motion for reasons outside the Cavaliers’ control.

But general manager David Griffin still cleared the cap space necessary to sign LeBron and organized the Love trade (though luck, winning the lottery, played a huge role their too). The amount is debatable, but Griffin deserves credit – and he nearly lost his authority before the offseason began.

Griffin became interim general manager in February and permanent general manager in May. In June, the Cavaliers pursued Kentucky coach John Calipari to become team president, which would have usurped Griffin’s authority.

Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Calipari turned them down, allowing Griffin to oversee one of the best offseasons of all-time. Maybe things would have gone as well with Calipari, but it’s hard to believe they could have gone any better.

So, Griffin could be telling Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and vice chairman Nate Forbes “I told you so.” In hindsight, Cleveland probably should have just stuck with Griffin all along.

Instead, Griffin is taking the high road.

Griffin on The Doug Gottlieb Show (hat tip: James Herbert of Eye on Basketball):

To be honest with you, I don’t think anything was ever done without my knowledge of what was being done, for one. And two, I turned down opportunities to be a GM before because the fit wasn’t right

And when I sat with Dan and Nate, when we talked about our vision for the future and me having this job, I encouraged them to talk to other people. It was something that was really important to me.

I would have talked to John Calipari if I was them. I would have been disappointed if they didn’t. So, it didn’t bother me in the least.

Just as I was beginning to trust Griffin’s judgment, he implies Calipari is fit to run an NBA team. If I were searching for a team president, not interviewing Calipari sure wouldn’t disappoint me.

But hopefully, Griffin is just showcasing another skill essential for an NBA general manager – pleasing the owner.

Owners often get blamed for interfering with general managers, but part of the general manager’s job as successfully managing the owner. Defending Gilbert’s chase of Calipari could help Griffin do that.

There’s not another good reason to defend your boss pursuing a lesser candidate in order to demote you.

  1. senorpapino - Aug 28, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    Well Lebron wanted to come back to Cleveland so it probably didn’t matter who the GM was as long as they didn’t screw up the cap by over-committing to marginal players and getting stuck in NBA purgatory (i.e. not good enough to win, not bad enough to tank).

    • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 3:16 PM

      The ability of the GM still matters. The Love deal was actually started over dinner between Saunders and Griffin in Cleveland loooooong before LeBron decided to return.

      Flip Saunders is from Cleveland, btw. That probably didn’t hurt. I wonder if he was a Cavs fan growing up. Maybe this was like that Jerry-West-sending-Pau-to-the-Lakers-for-nothing deal.

      • mackcarrington - Aug 28, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        I’m a little fuzzy on that. Help me out. I thought that West was no longer a Grizzlies employee when that trade went down. Am I wrong?

      • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:24 PM

        Well here’s what Adrian Wojnarowski reported:

        “The one-sided nature of the trade inspired a lot of people to believe that retired Memphis GM, Jerry West, a Lakers’ legend, played a part in facilitating the deal. West was instrumental recruiting Wallace as his replacement in Memphis and still holds a close relationship with Heisley. His history in Los Angeles, especially his bond with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and star Kobe Bryant, made even the fair-minded cynical about the scenario.”

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 28, 2014 at 4:07 PM

        No you’re right. Jerry West hadn’t worked for the Grizzlies for almost a year when the Pau Gasol trade happened. Additionally, the trade netted the Grizz Marc Gasol, as well as the cap space to acquire Zach Randolph. Most people don’t like to let facts get in the way of good Laker bashing though.

        An apt comparison would have been Kevin McHale sending Kevin Garnett to the Celtics.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:33 PM

        No, Simonetti. At the time the trade was seen as one-sided. No one knew what chubby Gasol was going to end up as. You wouldn’t know that though because you weren’t yet a Lakers fan.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 29, 2014 at 10:41 AM

        So should Chris Wallace not have made that trade because of public perception? Playing to the fanbase is what has gotten the Lakers into their current problems. Wallace knew what he was doing… he had scouted Marc, he knew the financial flexibility Kwame/Javaris/McKie would grant him… so he knew this would be a good trade… should he not have pulled the trigger just because people outside the organization didn’t agree?

  2. ohioteamsusuallysuck - Aug 28, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    Memphis did not get robbed in that trade at all. They got mark gasol and a few other good pieces. They would do that trade again in a second. Would the lakers? Maybe not

    • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 3:49 PM

      Well remember about a year after that trade the Grizzlies owner thought he got ripped off. He was complaining about what he got in return and everyone was giving West the stink eye.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 28, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        They shouldn’t have been, considering Chris Wallace was the GM that made the trade.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:46 PM

        Doesn’t matter. The perception (and perhaps the reality) is that West, who recruited Wallace to the Grizzlies, still maintained influence over him and Heisley. Everyone involved denies that – which of course they would if that were the case because it looks bad – but it’s not implausible.

      • mackcarrington - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        Does anyone know what kind of mental complex it’s called when someone absolutely refuses to ever acknowledge that they are wrong about something? There has to be a clinical definition for it.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:56 PM

        yeah it’s called the #KobeSystem

      • mackcarrington - Aug 28, 2014 at 6:12 PM

        Well, it must fry your grits that you and Kobe are soul mates in that regard.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 8:41 PM

        That’s how I know him so well.

      • mackcarrington - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:36 PM

        So you’re admitting that you hate yourself?

      • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:56 PM

        Ha no. I’m a pretty good person in real life. My online persona is a little different. But unlike Kobe I have friends and my wife trusts me and loves me for who I am and my daughter isn’t afraid that I’ll molest her at night.

      • mackcarrington - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:14 PM

        Well, in that case, whenever you’re in LA drop me a line and we’ll get together and have a beer or something. We’ll hit it off just fine.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:39 PM

        Very true. Will do.

    • zoomy123 - Aug 28, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      A “few” other good pieces? Like what? Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron Mackie? The two first round picks turned out to not be worth anything. Essentially this deal was Marc for Pau, and Marc isn’t as good as Pau.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 29, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie turned into the cap space that allowed the Grizzlies to acquire Zach Randolph. They weren’t acquired for their talent, but rather for the financial flexibility it granted the Grizz.

      • zoomy123 - Aug 29, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        So, they gave up an All-Star for cap space + Marc? That sounds fair.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 29, 2014 at 12:38 PM

        Considering it was the trade that pushed the Grizz to the 2013 WCF, I’d agree.

      • zoomy123 - Aug 29, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        People like to judge deals based on what happens in the future, but that’s wrong. The question is whether or not the deal was fair at the time it was made. And it clearly was not fair.

  3. succulentnipples - Aug 28, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    Big John Football defends his pursuit.

  4. mungman69 - Aug 30, 2014 at 5:08 AM

    David Griffin stepped in poop and came out smelling like a rose. No, not THAT Rose.

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