Ever since LeBron James came back to Cleveland, there’s been a widespread belief that he’s the one pulling the strings behind the scenes when it comes to personnel decisions. The lack of a tenured coach like Erik Spoelstra or a respected behind-the-scenes authority like Pat Riley gives off the impression that James is running the show, which the Cavs front office and ownership has denied. But GM David Griffin doesn’t exactly deny that James has a lot of say on these things.
That is certainly how a recent ESPN The Magazine pictorial portrayed him. It presented James as a hands-on CEO, doing everything from rewriting the playbook to identifying and recruiting talent.
Griffin fully concedes that James is the most powerful person in the organization aside from owner Dan Gilbert. “He’s going to have the biggest voice, he’s the most important, accomplished player in the league and he’s an absolute basketball savant,” Griffin says. “He has the most thorough understanding of X’s and O’s on the floor and best mind for the game off the floor of any human being I’ve ever known. Coach, front-office person, anything. It would be crazy for me not to consult with him on what we want to do.”
Griffin, though, takes exception with the idea that James runs the entire franchise the way a puppeteer would a marionette. “The idea of him dictating things is not how he is,” Griffin says. “That [ESPN] article puts him in such a terrible light. It is not a factual representation of how he’s carried himself. It’s just not.”
Even if James isn’t dictating trades and signings, it makes sense that they’re at least being run by him. The Cavs got his sign-off before making last season’s trades for J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov, and James pushed hard to bring back Mo Williams this summer. Even if James isn’t making the final calls on these things, you have to believe that if he were vehemently opposed to a move, that move wouldn’t get made. That’s just how things work.