Jason Miller/Getty Images
The man who helped orchestrate the city of Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years is not returning.
“The Cleveland Cavaliers and its General Manager, David Griffin, have mutually decided not to extend David’s current contract, which ends June 30, 2017.
“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Griff for his leadership and many contributions during his time here, including most recently, his role in the franchise’s first NBA Championship.
“We have no announcement at this time related to new leadership of the Cavaliers basketball operations group, but we are confident our current front office will continue to aggressively explore and pursue opportunities to improve our team in the weeks ahead.”
Griffin would release a statement on the news, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:
Dave McMenamin @mcten
Statement from David Griffin: https://t.co/2a7aJdIUVH
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups is a potential candidate for the opening. Wojnarowski cited a source who said Cleveland and Griffin “just couldn’t agree on [the] future,” while McMenamin said “Griffin removed himself from consideration when it became clear his vision for CLE didn’t match [owner Dan] Gilbert’s.”
McMenamin reported assistant GM Koby Altman is currently handling trade phone calls for the Cavs.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported vice president of basketball operations Trent Redden also won’t be back when his contract expires at the end of June. Aldridge was shocked by the decision to let Redden go:
David Aldridge @daldridgetnt
What is very surprising: Cavs assistant GM Trent Redden, very highly respected around the league, is also out. Wow. Total house cleaning.
This come after McMenamin wrote in April the team and Griffin failed to come to an agreement before the 2016-17 season.
However, this also comes after Sam Amico of Amico Hoops reported in May that Gilbert was preparing to offer Griffin “a substantial contract and title to remain with the team.”
McMenamin shared one player’s reaction:
Dave McMenamin @mcten
Just reached out to a Cavs player for a response about the David Griffin departure. His response: “Griff is leaving?”
Meanwhile, a source told ESPN’s Ryen Russillo that LeBron James’ camp “was surprised” that Griffin won’t return.
While he will no longer serve as the general manager, Griffin’s tenure can only be classified as a success, and Wojnarowski added there will be “multiple teams pursuing him for significant money in next round of GM openings.”
He became Cleveland’s acting GM in 2014 when Chris Grant was dismissed and was eventually given the full-time position. He was there when James returned after his stint with the Miami Heat and also traded for Kevin Love and made a number of other moves that helped the Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals and reach the Finals again this year.
He earned the endorsement of James in the process, per McMenamin:
“It makes no sense why he shouldn’t get an extension. He’s pulled every move—he’s tried to make every move happen—to better this team to be able to compete for a championship. So we wouldn’t be in this position, obviously, without him and without the guys that are here—from the coaching staff to the players to Griff. He’s been a big piece of it.”
Griffin re-signed or dished out contract extensions to James, Love, JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Richard Jefferson in the offseasons of 2015 and ’16, per McMenamin. In doing so, the Cavs accumulated the highest payroll in the NBA in 2016-17—often the price a franchise pays to be in consistent contention for a title.
He built a championship core around one of the best players in NBA history but was not rewarded for his efforts this offseason.
Cleveland still looks primed to compete in the immediate future with James, Kyrie Irving, Love and a formidable surrounding cast, but the general manager who put them all together won’t be there for the next chapter.