Cavs GM: 'Not fair' to say team taking directives from LeBron James

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Saturday, January 23, 2016

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin maintains he consulted only with owner Dan Gilbert and not with his team's superstar, LeBron James, before firing coach David Blatt on Friday.

During a news conference in which he explained the decision to let Blatt go and promote associate coach Tyronn Lue to the top job, Griffin fielded a question regarding James potentially being labeled a "coach killer" for his perceived involvement in the move.

"I certainly can [answer that]," Griffin said. "So, I've got a problem in general with this narrative, and those of you that have been with us for a while understand this. LeBron plays for this team. And he's the leader of this team. And he desperately wants to bring a championship to this team. LeBron doesn't run this organization. LeBron is about this organization, and he is of this organization, and he's of our community. But this narrative that somehow we're taking direction from him, it's just not fair. It's not fair to him in particular. But frankly, it's kind of not fair to me and our group anymore."

According to a source close to James, he "didn't know this was coming" before Griffin gathered the Cavs at the practice facility to inform them that Blatt had been fired. Sources told ESPN's Brian Windhorst that although James' fondness for Lue and his desire to be coached by a former player were well-known throughout Cleveland's organization, James was not directly consulted Friday on the Cavs' decision.

Griffin said whatever conversations he had with James over the state of the team occurred in the weeks and months leading up to Friday, not in response to Monday's blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors. Griffin is a hands-on GM, making nearly every road trip with the team, so he said he felt like he had the players' pulse, even without a final conversation with the captain, James.

"I'm not somebody who believes we don't talk to the family before we make changes," Griffin said. "We do. And I've told you that. I talk to many players when we make decisions of magnitude that will change the locker room.

"This was one where I didn't need to ask them, because I've watched them interact with each other for a very long period of time under a lot of different circumstances. I know what something that's not right looks like, and I believe this was the right decision to make. And it's very possible that it's the wrong decision to make. You may hear that from our players tomorrow. And I'm open-minded to that. They don't have to like it. They have to respect that this is what we're trying to do."

James' public statements about Blatt this season have been mostly positive. In November, James said Blatt "does his job as great as any coach can do in this league."

On a recent road trip, James told of Blatt: "One thing he tries to do is just put us in a position to win, and then it's up to us."

And even after the Cavs' win over the Clippers on Thursday night, in what turned out to be Blatt's last game as the team's head coach, James credited him for emphasizing a quickened pace, which paid off against Los Angeles.

"It's been something Coach has been harping on us about," James said. "He stayed on us as of late, and we need to do that."

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