Part of me felt obligated to write some sort of professional obituary commemorating Chris Grant’s time as General Manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. But I really didn't want to. Instead, I stepped away from the chaos by publishing an article about a creative floral designer from Michigan. What’s there to really say about Grant's tenure at this point anyway, I thought.
He's credited with drafting Kyrie Irving over Derrick Williams. He also made some killer trades. In fact, Grant never lost a trade he was involved in as far as I can tell. He maybe passed on pushing for James Harden according to a recent report and he tried to out-smart the NBA Draft in most cases. Thompson and Waiters are picks I still support, for example, but they have obviously returned mix results thus far. The Bynum thing I'm not blaming him for. When marquee free agents do not traditionally sign with your organization, you need to take risks. And Grant did specifically that.
He went way off the board with the Anthony Bennett selection, though, and that didn't help his standing with an owner who had pledged his team into the playoffs during the preseason. The safest pick–if Grant was looking to merely keep his job at least–would've been drafting Nerlens Noel instead. We knew Noel wouldn’t play this season. Grant could’ve been sitting through this mess waiting on his healthy return. Just let me get to Noel next season when I have all my pieces, maybe, and judge me then.
But there would be no next season in Cleveland for Christopher Grant. Dan Gilbert fired him this week, in part, because somebody had to be fired. The fanbase wanted a move to be made and Grant didn’t do all that much to keep himself safe. So it's David Griffin’s team now as a result. A basketball man who began his journey in the League as an intern with the Phoenix Suns in 1993. He would spend 17 seasons with Phoenix, serving as the Vice President of Basketball Operations during his last three. In Cleveland since 2010, Griffin had gone on to become Grant's right-hand man.
Until this week. Now David Griffin is an acting General Manager. After Friday night in Washington, he's also undefeated.
Kyrie Irving balls out in response against Wizards
Kyrie Irving has referred to Byron Scott as his basketball father as recently as last year. While Scott's job was in jeopardy down the stretch last season, Irving played some of his worst basketball. Scott was eventually fired in response to all the losing. With Mike Brown’s job very much on the line in Washington on Friday, though, Irving posted his sixth double-double of the season. He finished with 23 points and 12 assists on only 11 shots from the field.
“Mike Brown demands a lot from us,” Irving told Allie Clifton during the post game interview on Fox Sports Ohio, “And we just wanted to come out and fight for him tonight.” Irving made all 13 of his free throws to push past his season scoring average of 21.5 points. And even though John Wall finished with 32 points to go along with 10 assists playing opposite, the Cavs point guard looked every bit the All-Star he will soon be later this month.
Dion Waiters combined with Irving for 47 points
"Once we do that we're hard to stop," Waiters said of his combined effort with Irving on Friday. He had just finished with 24 points and four rebounds. He had also just made a series of intelligent basketball decisions like measuring the defense before attacking the basket late in the shot clock during the fourth quarter to convert a critical layup. Waiters also received a pass from Anderson Varejao with under a minute remaining before wisely deciding to pull the basketball out and burn off valuable seconds.
These were smart basketball plays, the type of decisions that Waiters is often criticized for not yet understanding at the age of 22. “It was a heckuva game from Dion Waiters,” Irving also told FSO post game. And it was. When those two guards play well together, the Cavs can beat teams with backcourts that include All-Star point guards like John Wall and shooting guards like Bradley Beal. That’s what Grant and Scott originally thought, too, when they selected Waiters fourth overall last summer. From a television somewhere on opposite ends of the country, they may have even watched it happen together.
Hoping Mike Brown can still eventually succeed
I really want to see Mike Brown succeed in Cleveland. My reasons are more for the future of the Cavaliers, though, than they are for Brown specifically. A message needs to be sent from the top of this organization on down that you can’t just quit on your coach every season. Regardless of his faults, the Cavs locker room quit on Byron Scott last year. So far this season–seemingly in response to requests of defensive effort and consistency–the Cavaliers have essentially quit on Mike Brown too. If they don’t respond with effort, and eventually quit on Brown again after the emotion of Grant’s firing subsides, that’s a bigger problem than who your coach is.
If that were to happen over the next 32 games, there’s really no reason to think this team wouldn’t just quit on the third coach they were to hypothetically bring in after Brown. So I hope they begin to defend consistently following this latest victory. I hope Grant's demise can serve as a wake-up call in the very least to the players he drafted and signed. I hope these guys begin to hustle on a regular basis. I hope they try to win when they step on the floor. Not for Mike Brown's sake necessarily, but to provide us all a reason to believe that eventually this thing can be turned around someday.
Photos: USA Today Sports, AP Photo/Alex Brandon