David Griffin’s contract expires this summer and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wants Griffin back. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the general manager will return.
Orlando is one team waiting to see how Griffin’s free agency plays out, according to a report from Yahoo Sports. The Magic are in need of a GM after firing Rob Hennigan, and could potentially double Griffin’s salary.
Also, according to Western Conference sources, Phoenix is another team with a strong interest in Griffin. That would be scary for the Cavs, because Phoenix is home for Griffin and the Suns are where his career began.
The Suns already have a general manager in Ryan McDonough and are said to be happy with how he’s trying to rebuild the team. But word is, they could offer Griffin a sort of president’s role, making him the overseer of all basketball-related decisions. Think of Phil Jackson’s position in New York, or the one Mike Holmgren once held with football’s Cleveland Browns.
Anyway, back to the Cavs.
Griffin wants to stay, and Gilbert wants him back. That much is clear.
No less than LeBron James even addressed the matter.
“It makes no sense why he shouldn’t get an extension,” the Cavs star told ESPN earlier this month. “He’s pulled every move. He’s tried to make every move happen to better this team and compete for a championship. So we wouldn’t be in this position, obviously, without him and without the guys that are here, from the coaching staff to the players to Griff. He’s been a big piece of it.”
So the solution should be simple — Griffin will return to the Cavs.
But it’s never that easy.
Today’s job is very different from the one Griffin landed more than three seasons ago.
If you remember, Griffin replaced Chris Grant late in the season. The Cavs had just lost to a horrible Lakers team that finished the game with four eligible players. Grant was canned the next morning.
So Griffin took over and talked about the importance of changing the culture. He talked about how the players were unhappy — and that creating a fun environment would be the first order of business.
It actually happened. While the GM isn’t usually in the locker room, Griffin made his presence felt, constantly supervising an extremely young team that featured Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. He cheered them up, gave them reasons to believe when all seemed lost.
The Cavs would no longer just play for lottery picks and try to build through the draft. Griffin wanted to create a winning mindset.
But the Cavs missed the playoffs, won the top pick in the lottery anyway, and drafted Andrew Wiggins. Somewhere in there, Griffin was officially named GM and quickly fired coach Mike Brown one year into Brown’s second stint.
Gilbert admired how Griffin quickly changed the young Cavs’ mindset and established some positive vibes.
Everything was going according to plan.
Then LeBron James returned, and that plan quickly changed.
THE RIGHT GM
Griffin went from being a GM who aimed to push a young team to the playoffs, to a GM with the game’s biggest superstar. The goal was a championship — right away.
Yes, part of Griffin’s job was to build the roster with input from James. That input has always been limited, but you always want to keep your star happy. LeBron never, ever tells Griffin what to do. Griffin just knows. But Griffin has built the team with his own vision. He does what he feels is best for the entire franchise, not one player.
Still, had Griffin surrounded LeBron with a bunch of young guys … well, that wouldn’t have worked out for anybody. Winning teams are veteran teams with playoff experience, star power and fill-ins who understand their roles.
Griffin made the changes. He traded for Kevin Love. He acquired J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver and others. Griffin has a reputation for not waiting around. If something isn’t working (read: Mike Dunleavy), Griffin will change it immediately.
A championship team also needs the right coach. Griffin fired David Blatt after Blatt guided an injured Cavs team to the Finals, then a 30-11 record the next season. Tyronn Lue was promoted. Lue actually had been the man Griffin wanted all along.
Lue, Griffin and the Cavs proceeded to win the first title in team history. Griffn’s moves worked and the Cavs have the rings to prove it.
As LeBron indicated, Griffin has clearly been a big part of the Cavs’ success.
As GM, he’s calmly negotiated contracts for Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith. He’s walked the fine line of keeping the players, agents and ownership happy, while being far from a pushover himself.
This team and its title clearly have Griffin’s fingerprints all over it. Many throughout the league feel the Cavs wouldn’t have a championship without Griff, that a lesser GM would have stuck with the coach or overly catered to the team’s star.
So Griffin is highly thought of around the NBA as the man who played a big role in helping rescue the Cavs.
Someone is going to offer him a lot of money this summer. Whether or not it’s the franchise Griffin navigated to a title is something that is still very unclear.