Strange days for Cava­liers

Cleve­land heads into im­por­tant sum­mer with cloud over GM’S fu­ture

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS - BY TOM WITHERS

De­throned last week as NBA cham­pi­ons, the Cleve­land Cava­liers are step­ping into a sum­mer al­ready off to a strange start.

With the draft just days away, and ma­jor ros­ter de­ci­sions — maybe even a block­buster trade for Paul Ge­orge — need­ing to be made, the Cava­liers aren’t cer­tain who will be call­ing the shots go­ing for­ward as they at­tempt to close the gap on the Golden State War­riors.

Gen­eral man­ager David Grif­fin’s con­tract ex­pires June 30, and it re­mains un­clear if he will stay with the or­ga­ni­za­tion he guided to its first cham­pi­onship and three straight NBA Fi­nals. Grif­fin has been Cleve­land’s full-time GM for three years, pro­moted from vice-pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions in May 2014 after serv­ing on an in­terim ba­sis for three months when Chris Grant was fired.

Un­der Grif­fin, and since Lebron James re­turned, the Cava­liers have en­joyed the best run in fran­chise his­tory.

There’s no guar­an­tee it will con­tinue.

While owner Dan Gil­bert val­ues Grif­fin and his lead­er­ship, the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man is hands-on with his bas­ket­ball team and has shown a will­ing­ness to keep his line of ex­ec­u­tives mov­ing. Grif­fin is the fourth GM to work for Gil­bert since 2005.

Grif­fin and Gil­bert met last week — after the Cava­liers were beaten in five games by the War­riors — to re­view the sea­son and dis­cuss their fu­ture to­gether. And at this point, there is no in­di­ca­tion their part­ner­ship will last.

Dur­ing the play­offs, Grif­fin drew in­ter­est from other teams, but At­lanta, Or­lando and Mil­wau­kee have filled GM va­can­cies. Those jobs had pre­sented other op­por­tu­ni­ties for Grif­fin, and now that they’re gone, he doesn’t have as much lever­age in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Gil­bert.

How­ever, Grif­fin does have a strong re­sume, which in­cludes the trade with Min­nesota that brought Kevin Love to Cleve­land in the sum­mer of 2014. Grif­fin has also ma­noeu­vred around some re­stric­tions — the Cava­liers cur­rently are with­out a pick in this year’s draft — to re-shape Cleve­land’s ros­ter, which needs tweak­ing again after the War­riors ex­posed an ag­ing bench in their third Fi­nals matchup with the Cavs.

Adding to the un­cer­tainty, Trent Red­den, the club’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent and Grif­fin’s likely suc­ces­sor, also has a con­tract that ex­pires at the end of the month.

There is ur­gency to get some clar­ity on Grif­fin’s sit­u­a­tion as the Cava­liers could be a player in the sweep­stakes for Ge­orge, who told the In­di­ana Pac­ers on Sun­day that he has no in­ten­tion to re-sign with them after next sea­son.

The four-time All-star has be­come good friends with James. The two have bat­tled back to James’ days in Mi­ami, and he has been in­spired by Ge­orge’s come­back from a hor­rific leg in­jury in 2014 while play­ing for the U.S. na­tional team.

“We’ve got a re­ally good friend­ship. I’m go­ing to leave it at that,” James said after a matchup against Ge­orge in April.

The Pac­ers have re­port­edly reached out to the Cava­liers to gauge their in­ter­est in Ge­orge. Cleve­land doesn’t have many fu­ture as­sets to of­fer In­di­ana, but the Cavs might be will­ing to strike a deal for Love, the tal­ented power for­ward com­ing off his best sea­son with Cleve­land. The 28-year-old has two years left on his con­tract, and the Pac­ers could view him as a cor­ner­stone piece to re­build on and run down the Cavs.

Ge­orge has spo­ken in the past about a pref­er­ence to play for his home­town Los Angeles Lak­ers, and it would be risky for the Cava­liers to ac­quire him with­out a prom­ise he would sign be­yond the 2018 sea­son. Then again, a one-year rental may be in­trigu­ing to the Cavs if it would guar­an­tee a fourth shot at the War­riors and a chance to even their ri­valry.

Also, if James and Ge­orge clicked, and it would be hard to imag­ine that not hap­pen­ing, they may stay in Cleve­land. Like Ge­orge, James has one year left on his con­tract, and at 32 his win­dow for adding ti­tles is shrink­ing. James has said he in­tends to end his ca­reer with Cleve­land, but an­other loss in what would be his eighth straight Fi­nals — and that he al­ready owns a home in Los Angeles — could push him away.

But be­fore any of those de­ci­sions are made, the Cava­liers must fig­ure out who is mak­ing the next one.

AP PHOTO

In this May 15 file photo, Cleve­land Cava­liers gen­eral man­ager David Grif­fin speaks at a news con­fer­ence in Cleve­land.

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