It’s a running joke on social media that Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is the true general manager of his team, often deciding which players to trade for and which of his teammates to get rid of.
This opinion is prevalent and perhaps has some basis in perceived common sense. LeBron is the most important player in the NBA, and the best player of his generation. Teams would like to keep him happy, and so the idea of consulting James before personnel moves does make some sense.
But according to ex-Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, that is not actually the case. Speaking to The Starters for this week on NBA TV, Griffin said that LeBron does not have that kind of involvement in personnel moves nor in coaching team. Griffin said that it’s quite the opposite, that LeBron would actually rather not be bothered with those things given the load he undertakes in carrying his team each and every season.
Via The Starters, and the video above at 13:00:
It’s not true at all. He doesn’t want to have that role. He doesn’t really want to do those things. He is obsessed with winning basketball games. What he wanted to do was lead the guys in the locker room and be as good as he can possibly be. He spends more time on his body and getting himself mentally and physically right than any player I’ve ever seen.
The reason people perceive that is because he was on one-year deals, because he is the best player of his generation, and the natural assumption is they won’t do anything to upset him. So if they do that, he must want that. The reality is there were several things we did because it was the right thing to do. And certainly I would go to him and ‘Listen, this is why we’re going to do that.’ Just as I did with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
There was never a time where LeBron said ‘I want X, Y, Z.’
This is interesting for a few reasons. First, it is an obvious defense of LeBron by Griffin. If Griffin says that LeBron isn’t running or coaching team, then the fit of the players the Cavaliers traded for and the work done by the head coach is truly the responsibility of those entities and not their star.
Second, a defense of LeBron by Griffin is in this case is an obvious dig at the Cavaliers themselves. Letting Griffin go was a mistake by Cleveland, and no doubt it came as a disappointment to many. Being able to defend LeBron — who Griffin could conceivably work with in the future — while sneakily blasting the current regime has to be a fun angle.
Meanwhile, Cavaliers are 6-9 in their last 15 games, and are having to publicly answer questions about the potential firing of Tyronn Lue. Whether you believe Griffin or not in this case, it’s always interesting to add more detail to the circus that is the Cavaliers.