Cavaliers head into important summer with cloud over GM’s future

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Dethroned last week as NBA champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers are stepping into a summer already off to a strange start.

With the draft just days away, and major roster decisions – maybe even a blockbuster trade for Paul George – needing to be made, the Cavaliers aren’t certain who will be calling the shots going forward as they attempt to close the gap on the Golden State Warriors.

General manager David Griffin’s contract expires June 30, and it remains unclear if he will stay with the organization he guided to its first championship and three straight NBA Finals. Griffin has been Cleveland’s full-time GM for three years, promoted from vice president of basketball operations in May 2014 after serving on an interim basis for three months when Chris Grant was fired.

Under Griffin, and since LeBron James returned, the Cavaliers have enjoyed the best run in franchise history.

There’s no guarantee it will continue.

While owner Dan Gilbert values Griffin and his leadership, the billionaire businessman is hands-on with his basketball team and has shown a willingness to keep his line of executives moving. Griffin is the fourth GM to work for Gilbert since 2005.

Griffin and Gilbert met last week – after the Cavaliers were beaten in five games by the Warriors – to review the season and discuss their future together. And at this point, there is no indication their partnership will last.

During the playoffs, Griffin drew interest from other teams, but Atlanta, Orlando and Milwaukee have filled GM vacancies. Those jobs had presented other opportunities for Griffin, and now that they’re gone, he doesn’t have as much leverage in negotiations with Gilbert.

However, Griffin does have a strong resume, which includes the trade with Minnesota that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland in the summer of 2014. Griffin has also maneuvered around some restrictions – the Cavaliers currently are without a pick in this year’s draft – to re-shape Cleveland’s roster, which needs tweaking again after the Warriors exposed an aging bench in their third Finals matchup with the Cavs.

Adding to the uncertainty, Trent Redden, the club’s senior vice president and Griffin’s likely successor, also has a contract that expires at the end of the month.

There is urgency to get some clarity on Griffin’s situation as the Cavaliers could be a player in the sweepstakes for George, who told the Indiana Pacers on Sunday that he has no intention to re-sign with them after next season.

The four-time All-Star has become good friends with James. The two have battled back to James’ days in Miami, and he has been inspired by George’s comeback from a horrific leg injury in 2014 while playing for the U.S. national team.

“We’ve got a really good friendship. I’m going to leave it at that,” James said after a matchup against George in April.

The Pacers have reportedly reached out to the Cavaliers to gauge their interest in George. Cleveland doesn’t have many future assets to offer Indiana, but the Cavs might be willing to strike a deal for Love, the talented power forward coming off his best season with Cleveland. The 28-year-old has two years left on his contract, and the Pacers could view him as a cornerstone piece to rebuild on and run down the Cavs.

George has spoken in the past about a preference to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, and it would be risky for the Cavaliers to acquire him without a promise he would sign beyond the 2018 season. Then again, a one-year rental may be intriguing to the Cavs if it would guarantee a fourth shot at the Warriors and a chance to even their rivalry.

Also, if James and George clicked, and it would be hard to imagine that not happening, they may stay in Cleveland. Like George, James has one year left on his contract, and at 32 his window for adding titles is shrinking. James has said he intends to end his career with Cleveland, but another loss in what would be his eighth straight Finals – and that he already owns a home in Los Angeles – could push him away.

But before any of those decisions are made, the Cavaliers must figure out who is making the next one.

How Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza complicate Rockets’ pursuit of third star

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After pairing Chris Paul and James Harden, the Rockets are reportedly chasing a third starPaul George, Carmelo Anthony or someone else.

But Houston parted with significant assets to land Paul from the Clippers. And the Rockets will have a tricky time dealing two remaining players, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Unloading Ryan Anderson to sign Paul outright would have helped Houston keep one of their outgoing guards, but the market for the three years and $60 million left on Anderson’s deal was frigid. Not even the Kings wanted him for free. At least two teams would have demanded two Houston first-round picks in exchange for absorbing Anderson, according to several league sources.

The salary filler probably can’t be Trevor Ariza, by the way. Ariza and Paul are close after years together in New Orleans, and playing with Ariza factored at least a little into Paul’s decision, per league sources. The Clippers had tried to trade for him in prior seasons, sources say. Ariza is also still good at a coveted position, and his Bird Rights will be valuable to a capped-out Rockets team next summer.

Anderson would be dangerous as a stretch four in pick-and-pops with Paul and Harden. Even if he’s overpaid, might be better to keep him than surrender more assets to dump him.

Likewise, Ariza is a nice two-way player and can play small-ball four. There’s a use for him on this team.

But beyond them, Houston is left with Eric Gordon and Clint Capela as movable players. Gordon, with a higher salary and less obvious fit with Paul and Harden, would almost certainly be a key cog in a trade for another star. Capela is younger and more valuable, though the Rockets would probably want to keep him as a defensive anchor.

That might not be possible while trading for a third star, though. Houston can’t even guarantee sending out another first-round pick in a trade after sending a protected first-rounder to the Clippers. (The Rockets could agree to convey a first-rounder two years after sending one to L.A., which would is highly likely to convey next year.) Including Capela in a trade might be the only way to assemble a suitable package.

Even then, Houston would be hard-pressed to surpass an offer from the Lakers or Celtics for George. Plus, if Indiana is rebuilding around Myles Turner, Capela is an awkward fit. That trade might require a third team – causing further complications.

Hoping Anthony gets bought out by the Knicks then signs for the mid-level exception is much simpler – though that route returns the lesser third star.

But Daryl Morey just brought Chris Paul to Houston before free agency even began. Now is not the time to underestimate the Rockets general manager.

Report: Knicks won’t consider Isiah Thomas to run front office

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A couple years ago, Knicks owner James Dolan said there was no scenario Isiah Thomas would return to the Knicks.

But Dolan also said a few months ago he’d keep Phil Jackson for the duration of Jackson’s five-year contract.

With Dolan effectively firing Jackson today, could Thomas become the Knicks’ next president?

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

The Post also learned Liberty president Isiah Thomas would not be considered for Jackson’s successor.

It’s sad that this needs to be reported. It’s even sadder that, even if this the Knicks’ plans right now, there are no assurances Dolan holds steady.

Dumping Jackson is a reason to celebrate. But as long as Dolan owns the team, it must be a reserved celebration.

At least the Knicks’ next step won’t include Thomas. Probably.

Raptors promote Bobby Webster to general manager

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TORONTO (AP) — With rumors swirling about the Knicks chasing Raptors president Masai Ujiri, the Raptors have promoted Bobby Webster to general manager.

Webster, 32 years old assistant the youngest GM in the NBA, replaces Jeff Weltman, who left Toronto in May to become president of the Orlando Magic.

A former staffer at the NBA league office in New York, Webster joined the Raptors in 2013 and was named assistant GM in 2016.

He’ll help decide what to offer All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who opted out of the final year of his contract last month after Cleveland swept Toronto in the second round of the playoffs.

Forwards Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson are all unrestricted free agents.

Also Wednesday, Toronto promoted Dan Tolzman to assistant general manager.

The Raptors have posted consecutive 50-win seasons and made four straight playoff appearances.

Jason Williams out 6-8 months after injury in Big3 debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Former NBA point guard Jason Williams will miss six to eight months after suffering a knee injury in the opening game of the Big3.

Corey Maggette, also injured in the opening week of Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league of former NBA players, had surgery for a leg injury. There is no timetable for his return.

The injuries were announced Wednesday during a conference call with Cube and Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz, who also detailed a couple rules changes starting with this weekend’s game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Games will be played to 50 points, instead of 60, with halftime coming when the first team reaches 25 points. Cube said that would help the four games per day move more quickly.