The Cleveland Cavaliers and general manager David Griffin parted ways on June 19. Sure, his contract was to run through June 30, but semantics are subservient to reality. Since this moment in time, the league has held it’s annual evening of refreshment in its two-round amateur draft as well as the open season period of its increasingly chaotic free agency window. Ostensibly, these key moments in an NBA team’s offseason have been spearheaded by 34-year-old Koby Altman, a long-time assistant to Griffin who had, along with Trent Redden (who was also relieved of his duties), helped manicure a roster that had made it to three consecutive NBA Finals. Not as ostensible: The defending Eastern Conference Champions have been navigating through a several-week stretch of incredible importance without so much as a general manager in place, all while the team owner, who has been one of the league’s more outspoken individuals through the last several years, remains quiet.
As the Cavaliers head into a crucial season, one that features the final season of LeBron James’ current contract with the organization coupled with the overarching expectations of perennial contention, all eyes are squarely set to team owner Dan Gilbert. It’s Gilbert who was widely celebrated as the man being willing to spend at an incredible rate in order to provide the city of Cleveland with the best team possible. It was Gilbert who green-lighted a deal that would send an inexpensive four-year deal with Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota to take on Kevin Love, a player who would be offered a five-year $113 million contract in the subsequent offseason. It’s Gilbert who is paying nearly $4 million for every $1 million spent this offseason. But it’s also Gilbert who, reportedly, wouldn’t relinquish power to Griffin during negotiations of his contract. It’s also Gilbert who, reportedly, provided a low-ball offer to the man he had pegged to be the team’s next President of Basketball Operations in Chauncey Billups—a man who, by the way, had no experience prior to said offer—who was brought to Cleveland earlier in the month in what appeared to be a mere formality prior to taking the job.
Cavs initial offer: $1.5 million
Second offer: $2 million
League average for such role: $4 million https://t.co/0fS7l7sTxl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 6, 2017
Following each season, teams typically set up exit interview-style availability with coaches and players. Given that the Cavs’ Finals hopes came to an end on the road, giving local media a chance to ask some parting questions would have been a standard operating procedure. These didn’t happen. In years past, media has also gathered at Cleveland Clinic Courts for the NBA Draft, getting late-night availability of the front office. This didn’t happen. The team will say this was done because they did not have any draft selections—which is true. But had they been able to swing the deal they had in place midway through the second round, this immediately changes. Individually, none of these items are of immense magnitude, but as they pile up, the perception is one of dodging the scrutiny that has become increasingly deserved since Game 5.
Those who wish to defend Gilbert will lob empty rhetorical grenades—”What’s he going to say?” has been frequently used. And while it’s true that he could simply outright lie like he did the time he denied being on a place heading down to Miami in the summer of 2014, he looks like a man without a plan. Worse, he’s appears to be a man without a short-term plan while the long-term value of a team he’s committed to propping up with his wallet looks to be on the decline with each additional rumor and lack of commitment from LeBron James. It was James who recently released a video discussing his relationship with Gilbert, further cementing his decision to return was exclusively about Cleveland and its fans, and was in spite of Gilbert as opposed to because of him. It’s no coincidence that over this same period of time, we now get reports that not only is Gilbert a sudden fan of Altman’s, but the re-circulation of a piece stating that the Cavs somehow lost money during their championship-winning season. Couple all of this with Gilbert’s recent trip to the White House during the Cubs’ World Series celebration, and it’s been an all-around optically horrible stretch for Gilbert, who could go from the man Cleveland fans almost universally applauded to the one who may somehow chase the greatest player of this generation away from his team—twice.
NBA League meetings are set to take place in Las Vegas over the coming days. The annual event houses executives and department heads from various lines of work, all of whom discuss their respective landscapes and how they can continue to be the most progressive league of the three major sports. Barring any changes, it will be the Cavaliers who will walk in to those meetings with Altman, but without a front office in place, the only team of the 30 to do so. If there’s any silver lining, it will be that Gilbert will finally have to talk. How much he says, however, remains the question.
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This Week in #ActualNonsportswriting:
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