Kevin Love

Report: David Griffin left plans for Cavaliers before he left to make run at Butler, George

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In the hours leading up to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert letting go of GM David Griffin, Griffin was working the phones feverishly to come up with a way for the Cavaliers to land Paul George or Jimmy Butler despite a capped out, old roster. They involved delicate three-way trades where the Cavaliers would have to part with Kevin Love.

Before he walked out the door, the good company man Griffin laid out his plans for Cavaliers staff, reports Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin left for his successors potential trades to bring either Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George to the team, sources told cleveland.com, and one or more deals Griffin constructed could happen without him.

In either case, a third team would be involved and would take All-Star forward Kevin Love in exchange for the mix of picks and role players the Bulls and Pacers seek to rebuild in the event they choose to deal their franchise player….

Sources believed that Gilbert and Koby Altman, who is essentially serving as the Cavs’ acting GM, could end up swinging a major trade that was first cooked up in Griffin’s final hours on the job.

I doubt Gilbert and Altman have the finesse to pull this off. Even if they hire Chauncey Billups quickly as the new head of basketball operations, he has no experience in the job and it’s a steep learning curve. Pulling off a three-team trade is unlikely.

But credit Griffin for being classy on the way out the door.

Rumor: Kyrie Irving telling other stars he might push for trade if LeBron James leaves Cavaliers

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Flash back to January 2014: Kyrie Irving was reportedly telling people he wanted to leave the Cavaliers.

A few months later, LeBron James returned and Irving’s world changed. There has been some rockiness, but LeBron carried Irving to basketball’s biggest stages, where Irving has earned a reputation as a big-game player. Irving won a title, and Cleveland will contend again next year.

But what about 2018, when LeBron could leave the Cavs (maybe for Lakers or Clippers)?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

All-Star Kyrie Irving has been contacting some of his former Team USA teammates and letting them know that he might be willing to push for a trade, especially if he feels the Cavs’ run could end quickly with James able to opt out after next season.

Through back channels, Chicago would be one of the places that Irving would be interested to play.

It’s easy to see these conversations getting spun beyond the intent. It’s a short hop from a vague “Wouldn’t it be cool if we played together?” among friends to this report.

But Irving will be just 26 next year and under contract for another season. The Cavaliers likely want to make him centerpiece of their next era.

If Irving threatens to leave in 2019, when Kevin Love can also become a free agent, they might trade him. And Irving might do that.

It’s fair to wonder when and how far Cleveland falls. It could get ugly in a hurry.

But I wouldn’t assume Irving is already lining up hard contingencies if LeBron leaves – or that the Cleveland will accommodate Irving’s plan even if he makes one.

Reports: Dan Gilbert didn’t consult with LeBron before letting GM go, LeBron “disappointed”

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Let’s say you were the owner of a basketball team that happened to employ the best player on the planet, a hometown guy who brought your club its first title ever. This player is why the building sells out, why sponsors clamor — and pay big money — to be associated with your franchise, and why the value of said franchise has skyrocketed in two years.

Now let’s say you heard said player is not entirely happy and is considering leaving in a year to head West. Wouldn’t you — for your fans and your own financial self-interest — do everything you could to keep that player happy and wanting to stay with you? So, if you were going to make a major move that could impact the team, wouldn’t you at least consult with him?

Then you’re not Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Gilbert decided to let very successful Cleveland GM David Griffin go — he can say it was “mutual” or that there was just a difference of opinion, but we all know the code words — and did not consult LeBron James, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Then LeBron James himself came to Griffin’s defense.

LeBron reportedly was “disappointed” and “concerned” with this decision — and he should be. Cavaliers fans should be as well. Griffin did as well as could be expected in the GM role: He traded for Kevin Love, he made low-cost moves that were smart (bringing in J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver, for example), he got Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson to re-sign, and in the end his teams won 65 percent of their games and went to three straight finals, winning one.

LeBron had backed Griffin publicly on multiple occasions, not just in this tweet. Maybe he didn’t go far enough lobbying for Griffin to Gilbert, but he may not have seen it coming because who fires their GM — who was working the phones trying to pull off a trade all Monday — just 11 days before the start of a crucial free agency period?

Griffin also was well-respected around the league for his ability to handle Gilbert, an owner thought of as one of the toughest to work for.

This could be a way for Gilbert to save money (Griffin made less than half of the going rate for an elite GM). But not spending to keep a title team relevant is the kind of thing that might make LeBron more likely to leave. Which is why you talk to him.

Maybe Gilbert is star struck. Chauncey Billups is who Gilbert is chasing to step into the big chair.

Billups is a smart man, but he has never worked in an NBA front office before and he’s being thrown into a very difficult spot: upgrade an older, capped-out roster so it can compete with the more athletic Warriors, and keep LeBron happy. He may have former Buck Assistant GM passed over for their head job Justin Zanik by his side, but that’s still a new front office trying to find it’s feet at a crucial time.

Griffin will only be unemployed as long as he wants to be, he’s highly respected around the league. Maybe he takes a year off and does television, maybe a team grabs him as a consultant, we shall see. But he will have options.

And whoever lands him will be getting an elite GM.

David Griffin to leave Cavaliers as GM; Chauncey Billups reportedly could be replacement

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David Griffin helped put a team around LeBron James that brought Cleveland its first title in 54 years. He pulled off the Kevin Love trade. He got J.R. Smith in town. He kept Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson with the Cavaliers. This year he pulled off moves to land Kyle Korver and Deron Williams to add depth. He’s done everything you could ask of a GM of a contender — he was the GM for three years, they went to three Finals, won a ring, and the team won 65 percent of its games.

Griffin was also underpaid by industry standards. He reportedly made less than $2 million a year, while GMs of other contenders make at least $4 million, usually more like $5 million. He was due a healthy raise.

Instead, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert decided to not pay that bill (and screw Griffin over in the process, we’ll get to that).

Griffin will be his own free agent July 1. Brian Windhorst of ESPN broke the news, Adrian Wojnarowski added details. Then Gilbert himself released a statement saying the two sides “mutually decided not to extend” his contract. Riiight.

Marc Stein of ESPN had another interesting note.

Gilbert is notoriously difficult to deal with, and around the league, people were always impressed with how Griffin dealt with him.

All this in front of a crucial off-season for the Cavaliers as they try to change their roster so they can compete with the Warriors, doing so without much in terms of cap space or tradeable assets (stuff spent already in the Cavs’ win-now mode). All with the threat of LeBron James leaving the team in 2018 looming over it.

Also, LeBron was not down with this move, reportedly. One would think if one wanted to keep LeBron with the franchise he would consult with his star on these kinds of major moves.

We’ll see what Gilbert pays the next GM, but was this really a move about a few million bucks he could cut to save (since the team tax bill will be brutal next year)?

Gilbert did screw over Griffin in this process: Orlando and Atlanta (plus Milwaukee, to a lesser degree) wanted to talk to Griffin about their GM openings. Gilbert would not give teams permission for those teams to contact Griffin about what are two of the better GM spots available. Eventually, those teams couldn’t wait and made their hires. Griffin was stuck. That after Griffin turned down higher-priced offers last summer — as did some of the rest of the front office staff — to be part of what the Cavaliers had.

It was within Gilbert’s rights, but if he knew he wasn’t going to pay the going rate, then be cool to your employees, not a…. jerk. We’ll go with jerk. But Gilbert is who he is.

Reports: Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Suns all linked to Jimmy Butler trade talks

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The smart money is still on Jimmy Butler starting next season as a Chicago Bull, mostly because Chicago is asking the world for him in a trade.

That doesn’t mean teams will not try.

Tom Thibodeau, who coached and helped develop Butler back in Chicago, has been one knocking on the door, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Interesting note followed from K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Cleveland has been linked to Butler as well, although that may be as a tool to get these other teams to up their offers because both Minnesota and Phoenix have a lot more young players and picks to offer than the Cavaliers. For Cleveland to pull this off, other teams will have to jump in as part of it.

The Celtics are not mentioned here, but you can be sure that call has been made.

The Bulls are doing what they said they would do: listen to offers, but ask for a lot in return. Which gets back to the overall question in Chicago of “what exactly is the long-term plan?” Maybe it’s flexible.

Minnesota has young players such as Zach LeVine, Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones and others to put in the mix (only Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins will be completely off limits). They also have picks. The Suns have young players they can throw in such as Marquese Chriss or Tyler Ulis, then they also have veterans who can help the Bulls win more now such as Eric Bledsoe (especially if they draft De'Aaron Fox with the No. 4 pick). The Cavaliers may have to deal Kevin Love, and either way would need to be very creative to pull this off. Something David Griffin has been in the past (whether he has a job in Cleveland after July 1 remains to be seen), but a lot of things need to come together for this to work.

Expect Butler rumors to ramp up around the draft and again as free agency starts, but the ratio of Bulls’ trade rumors to actual Bulls’ trades suggests being patient here. They often talk to everyone, stuff gets leaked, then they choose not to act.