There has been a lot of talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers trading for a big name, such as Jimmy Butler or Paul George. But the team could be on the verge of bringing in another well-known NBA figure, for a reason that has struck many observers as rather odd, given the timing.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert announced Monday evening that his team and its general manager, David Griffin, “have mutually decided not to extend David’s current contract, which ends June 30.” Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical subsequently reported that Gilbert was “targeting Chauncey Billups to become Cavs’ top basketball executive.”
The 40-year-old Billups has been an NBA analyst for ESPN since he retired from the league in 2014. The third overall pick in the 1997 draft, Billups played for seven teams during his 17-year career, most notably the Pistons, with whom he won an NBA Finals MVP award in 2004 while helping Detroit to a title.
Wojnarowski cited Billups’s relationship with Gilbert and Cleveland Coach Tyronn Lue, whose own career as an NBA point guard overlapped with that of Billups, as factors that could land him a job in which he would hire the team’s newest GM. Meanwhile, the owner’s announcement was likely intended to restore some clarity to a situation that remains highly unsettled at a very delicate time.
An executive with the Cavs beginning in 2010, Griffin was named general manager in 2014, and he oversaw the acquisition of LeBron James and Kevin Love, leading to a run of three straight Finals appearances. Griffin was reportedly upset at not having been given a contract extension last summer, as Cleveland was coming off an unprecedented rally for its first title, and ESPN reported that the parting of ways came after “extensive talks” on a new pact.
In April, James had endorsed Griffin as being deserving of an extension, but according to ESPN, Griffin did not share Gilbert’s vision for the direction of the team. Assistant GM Trent Redden, whose contract also ends on June 30, is reportedly leaving the organization, as well, raising questions about who will be making personnel decisions as Thursday’s NBA draft approaches.
At the moment, Cleveland has no picks in that draft, but it does appear to have a need for a roster shake-up, given what appeared to a clear talent disparity during its 4-1 Finals loss to the Warriors. To that end, Cleveland has been trying to land a premier player to pair with James and guard Kyrie Irving, likely by trading away Love.
Earlier on Monday, ESPN’s Marc Stein had reported that the Cavs were trying to orchestrate a multi-team deal in which they would acquire Butler from the Bulls, while the website’s Dave McMenamin reported that the Pacers had already offered George in a similar transaction involving Love. Hanging over everything in Cleveland is the possibility that James himself will leave the team in 2018, when he is expected to opt out of his contract.
While many think James ultimately calls the shots in Cleveland, or at least exerts unparalleled sway as a player, Griffin was credited with several moves to help the team. Those included replacing former head coach David Blatt with Lue and then trading for J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov during the 2014-15 season, as well as acquiring three-point specialist Kyle Korver this season.
“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,” Gilbert said in a statement. “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.”
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Monday that “Gilbert didn’t consult” with James before firing Griffin, and the network’s Ryen Russillo claimed that a source told him James’s camp was “surprised” by the ouster. According to Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers’ front office had been in a “tough spot” this week while engaged in trade talks, “constantly needing to address Griffin’s future with rival executives.”Source: denverpost