It was inevitable. Someone needed to get fired as I said last night…
This morning I wrote that it should have been Mike Brown and not Chris Grant. I won’t re-hash everything I wrote there because you can read it yourself. But I’m not exactly doing cartwheels about what the Cavs and Dan Gilbert decided to do today. Brown has done an atrocious job of coaching this basketball team and appears to have lost the trust of the players.
Incidentally that may have been what cost Grant the job. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, who broke the story, it was Grant who pushed to bring Mike Brown back to Cleveland as head coach after the firing of Byron Scott. This obviously put Dan Gilbert in a tough spot where he was forced to sit at that press conference and eat some crow while announcing that he had made a mistake in firing Brown the last time. Now he looks even dumber for bringing him back.
There’s no doubt that this team had much higher expectations that what the team has accomplished to this point. With the roster as currently constructed, there’s no reason why this Cavaliers basketball team shouldn’t be battling for playoff positioning with the likes of the Wizards and Hawks. But instead they’re free-falling and the players are revolting against the coach. It’s not a lack of talent so much as it’s a lack of leadership.
Many have pushed the sports-talk radio line that “if you had said three years ago that this team would have gotten two No. 1’s and two No. 4’s along with Jarrett Jack and Luol Deng you’d think this team would be a lot better than 16-33 right now.” That’s fair, and everyone would assume that. Heck, I picked them to go to the playoffs prior to the season without even factoring in Deng, and once they added him I thought it was a guarantee. But clearly there are more factors at play with this team than just that they have all those high draft picks.
I wrote the day prior to the Deng trade about how, while the perception is that Grant missed on so many draft picks, the reality is that he didn’t have much to choose from. Again, I won’t repeat everything I wrote, but if you go back and look at the options that were presented to him at the spots the Cavs were selecting, there aren’t many picks that he could have taken in place of the guys he chose that would have dramatically improved this team from a talent standpoint. In the past two drafts the two best players taken after Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett were both point guards. The only player that I believe you could make a case for taking over Waiters which would have a marked impact is Andre Drummond who was a boom or bust pick. Waiters is better than Harrison Barnes and if you still think that’s a question then you don’t watch basketball. Bennett is actually starting to play better so there’s hope for him yet. His play over the past couple weeks is equivalent to what the rest of that class is doing. The year before that, Kyrie was obviously a great pick and as easy as that one seems in retrospect there were plenty of people calling for Derrick Williams at the time. Tristan Thompson is certainly a bit of a disappointment. But the only other real option where he was taken was Jonas Valanciunas, who isn’t much different from Thompson. People will make the case for Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leornard who were both taken in the middle of the first round that year but no one had them pegged as being an option at No. 4.
So while the narrative is that Chris Grant didn’t do enough to improve the team with those draft picks, it misses the fact that those were some of the worst drafts that we’ve had in a long time.
The other big part of being a GM is obviously trades. And the case could be made that no one is better at making trades than Chris Grant. In his time running the Cavs he turned Mo Williams, Jamario Moon, JJ Hickson, Ramon Sessions, and Jon Luer into Kyrie Irving, Tyler Zeller, Sergey Karasev, Luol Deng, and a future first round pick. If he could have gotten Kyrie for that pile of worthless pieces that would have been a steal. No one is better than Grant at trades to the point where other teams were afraid to make deals with him for fear of getting fleeced.
Furthermore, what Grant did was what needed to be done to rebuild a team in the NBA today. He had to strip it down, bottom out, and rebuild with young players and through trades. He did just that and he put together a team that, on paper, is talented enough to be in the playoffs in this pathetic Eastern Conference. The drafts weren’t good, but the plan worked. This team should be better than it is right now.
But the players are selfish, lazy, and don’t respect the coach. And that’s how you turn a team with multiple All-Stars, years of playoff experience, and young talented players into one of the most frustrating basketball teams that I can remember.
The only positive that I can draw from firing Grant at this point is that it saves the team from the GM making a panicked trade in an effort to save his job. With David Griffin taking over all the moves that are made will have the future in mind, not just trying to save the present. Especially since this season is lost already.
Dan Gilbert was pleasantly candid in his press release announcing the dismissal of Grant. He expressed his displeasure with the state of the team, calling it “unacceptable.” The money line though was when Gilbert promised “There is no move, nor any amount of capital investment, we will not make if we believe it will improve our chances of competing and winning in this league for both the short and long term.” So that provides some hope, knowing that the owner is sufficiently pissed off to the point where he doesn’t care about money when it comes to fixing the team. That means that even though Mike Brown is in the first year of a 5 year/$20M contract he’ll be gone if it’s determined that he’s not part of the solution.
Firing Chris Grant did nothing to help the Cavs actually win any basketball games this season. But what it was was a sign from the owner that he won’t stand for losing. And if you aren’t part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. And that’s something I can respect.Follow @ClevelandFlack