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.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Warriors

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Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.

The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.

Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.

Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.

The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.

Kevin Durant on Giannis Antetokounmpo: ‘I would tell him to play for himself’

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Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.

So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.

Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.

Via ESPN:

What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.

That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.

The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.

Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in; series tied 2-2

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.