The story of how David Griffin lost his job as Cleveland Cavaliers general manager is one that happens in businesses across America: He wanted more money and more power, and his boss said no.
That, according to a Tuesday ESPN report that details exactly how Cavs owner Dan Gilbert reached the point of firing the GM who led his franchise to three consecutive NBA Finals. There’s a lot to unpack, so here are the highlights from Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin’s story:
— Griffin was paid just less than $2 million annually on a contract set to expire after this month and wasn’t promoted after helping the Cavs win the NBA championship last year. In contrast, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue received a five-year contract extension worth $7 million per year after the team won the title.
— Griffin believed he wouldn’t be long for the Cavs job, so there was mutual interest between him and the Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks, all of whom might have given him a better title with more money and more power. Gilbert was upset Griffin would consider jobs elsewhere, and when the Magic and Hawks asked permission to speak with the GM, the Cavs owner denied it.
— A Friday meeting between Griffin and Gilbert seemed to be the breaking point, and sources told Windhorst and McMenamin that chat “did not go well.” They wrote: “Griffin wanted a large pay raise and an upgrade in power. Gilbert wanted better communication and more aggression from Griffin as the team licked its wounds after a 4-1 loss in the Finals.” Of course, three days later, Griffin received a pink slip, even as he discussed trades with the Indiana Pacers (Paul George), Chicago Bulls (Jimmy Butler) and Phoenix Suns (a three-team deal involving Kevin Love).
Perhaps Griffin was right to seek new employment since, as ESPN noted, Gilbert hadn’t extended a GM’s contract during his 12 years owning the Cavs. And while LeBron James clearly wasn’t happy about the decision, one Cavs player told ESPN: “It speaks to the uncertainty of the business of basketball. That’s the business. That’s the business at its core.”
A cruel business, indeed.
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