Cavaliers part ways with GM Griffin as deal time hits

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General Manager David Griffin of the Cleveland Cavaliers speaks to the guests at the 2017 NBA Finals Cares Legacy Project as part of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 8, 2017 at Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland at East Tech High School in Cleveland, Ohio. David Dow, NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

WASHINGTON — Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert announced Monday that general manager David Griffin is out as general manager of the NBA club when his contract expires at the end of June.

The move came exactly one year after LeBron James led the Cavaliers to an NBA crown, the first by any major Cleveland sports team since 1964, and one week after the Cavaliers were dethroned by the Golden State Warriors in this year’s NBA Finals.

Gilbert said the decision for Griffin not to return was mutual.

“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,” Gilbert said in a statement.

“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.”

Team executives will need to work hard as the NBA Draft is Thursday and a week from Saturday marks the start of free agency for next season.

Cleveland’s ouster in five games in the best-of-seven final showed just how far the Cavaliers must improve to match the Warriors, who added free agent star forward Kevin Durant after losing last year’s final.

Griffin and Gilbert reportedly did not agree on a future direction for the Cavs’ roster, which could be in major flux in the next few days based on several reports.

Indiana’s Paul George, who has told the Pacers he plans to leave when his contract expires after next season, reportedly has drawn interest from the Cavaliers.

And Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, who like George could serve in a forward or backcourt role depending on needs, is also being eyed by the Cavaliers, according to ESPN, which says both clubs are looking for a third team to facilitate a deal.

George, a four-time All-Star, averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals for the Pacers last season, with Cleveland eliminating Indiana in the first round of the playoffs.

Butler, 27, is coming off a career-best campaign for Chicago that saw him average 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.9 steals a game.

In either case, the Cavaliers would likely be looking at trading forward Kevin Love, who together with James and guard Kyrie Irving have sparked Cleveland the past three seasons.

James, who has played in the past seven NBA Finals, can become a free agent after next season, making it imperative the Cavaliers make moves now to answer the Warriors’ signing of Durant a year ago and subsequent epic title run, their 16-1 playoff record this season including a record 15-0 start.

– Billups a possible new GM? –

Former NBA players Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce arrive before Game Four of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 9, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Andrew D. Bernstein, NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

Griffin became the Cavaliers’ general manager in February 2014 after Chris Grant was fired, a deal made permanent three months later. His first major move was the signing of David Blatt as coach and then drafting Andrew Wiggins with the top pick.

But all plans were thrown asunder next following month when James announced he was leaving Miami after four seasons and returning to Cleveland.

In moves to support a roster suddenly sparked by James, Griffin traded Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for Love and in January 2015 obtained J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks. He also fired Blatt in 2016 and replaced him with current coach Tyronn Lue.

Yahoo Sports reported that former Detroit Pistons star Chauncey Billups, the 2004 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, is a candidate to replace Griffin based on strong relationships with Lue and Gilbert.

The new general manager will be the fifth since Gilbert bought the club in 2005.

© Agence France-Presse

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