It’s official: Cleveland Cavaliers fire GM Chris Grant

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UPDATE 2:07 p.m.: The Cleveland Cavaliers have confirmed the report, they have fired general manager Chris Grant. David Griffin, who had been an assistant to Grant, will step in as the interim GM.

“This has been a very difficult period for the franchise,” Owner Dan Gilbert said in a released statement. “We have severely underperformed against expectations. Just as this is completely unacceptable to our loyal and passionate fan base, season ticket holders and corporate partners, it is also just as unacceptable to our ownership group. I can assure everyone who supports and cares about the Cleveland Cavaliers that we will continue to turn over every stone and explore every possible opportunity for improvement to shift the momentum of our franchise in the right direction. There is no one in our entire organization who is satisfied with our performance, and to say that we are disappointed is an understatement. We all know the great potential of our young talent, seasoned veterans, as well as our recent all-star addition. We believe a change in leadership was necessary to establish the best possible culture and environment for our entire team to flourish.

“There is no move, nor any amount of capital investment, we will not make if we believe it will improve our chances of competing and winning in this league for both the short and long term. The fans of this great city have invested too much time, money and effort for the kind of product we have recently delivered to them. This must change.”

1:03 p.m.: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made it public last June, standing on the stage at the NBA Draft Lottery where his Cavaliers had once again gotten the top pick in the draft — he said he was tired of being at the lottery, he wanted to make the playoffs next season.

Instead the Cavaliers are an absolute mess. A tire fire. At 16-33 they have lost 8-of-9, have a bottom 10 offense and defense, have serious chemistry issues in the locker room, have a coach in Mike Brown who clearly doesn’t have the players attention, and Wednesday night the Cavs lost at home to a Lakers team that had dropped seven in a row, was on the second night of a back-to-back and by the end of the game only had four legally eligible players they could put on the court.

This organization needs a complete and total shake up and that started Thursday when the team fired GM Chris Grant, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Gilbert had grown increasingly frustrated with the losing and dysfunction within the Cavaliers and the loss to the Lakers – who finished the game with four eligible players – was the breaking point…

Grant had a reputation as a hard-working executive, but failed to construct an infrastructure of talent to return the Cavaliers to the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left as a free agent in 2010.

Current assistant GM David Griffin is expected to become Cavs’ interim GM, Wojnarowski reports.

This firing was coming for a while.

Grant has been the guy in charge of building this roster after LeBron James bolted town. He had one shining smart move, drafting Kyrie Irving. Which with the top pick in that draft was a no brainer.

But look at his other top picks — Tristan Thompson is a potential rotation player out of the No. 4 spot; Dion Waiters shot up the board late and was the No. 4 pick taken in front of Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond; and the pick of Anthony Bennett at No. 1 last season was a surprising reach at the time that has yet to pay off at all.

Grant brought in Mike Brown, who has had about as much attention and control over this team as your high school substitute history teacher did over your class. Mike Brown’s seat just got insanely hot, he may survive this season but it’s hard to see him lasting beyond this summer.

Grant rolled the dice on Andrew Bynum, but that came up snake eyes. Grant made the trade to bring in Luol Deng to turn this season around in Cleveland. Not only has that not worked, Deng was reportedly dismayed at what he saw in the locker room.

What is wrong in Cleveland is not easily fixed. It’s going to require a good general manager and a few years.

They still have the All-Star Irving — while his progression slowed this season (thanks again, Mike Brown) he is still potentially an elite point guard who can be a franchise cornerstone with the right guidance. He is not bolting — he will take the guaranteed huge money of his first post rookie-deal contract (just as LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and every other star who eventually bolted town did). They have time to build something around him and keep him in town.

Grant being fired was the first step in that process.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder won in triple overtime, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.