Cleveland Cavaliers acting general manager David Griffin talks to reporters before an NBA basketball game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Cavaliers, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Cleveland. Griffin takes over for Chris Grant who was fired last Thursday.
CLEVELAND — David Griffin wants the Cavaliers to be happy, but that doesn’t mean the acting general manager thinks the NBA is all rainbows and unicorns.
Griffin has already delivered a stern message to the underachieving team, according to several insiders.
"I wouldn’t want to share what I told them," Griffin said at an introductory press conference prior to the Cavs’ 91-83 overtime victory over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.
Griffin basically told the players they’re either all in, or they’re out — that there’s no middle ground. And who could blame the man? The Cavs’ inconsistent and maddening play resulted in the firing of former GM Chris Grant last week. And Griffin knows, if the Cavs (18-33) don’t get things turned around quickly, he could be the next to go.
"If I’m going to be successful in this position, it’s because we as a group have results," Griffin said.
"And if we have those results, then you tend to get to stay. If you don’t, you go away. That’s the nature of this beast. Dan (Gilbert) doesn’t need to say anything to me. We need to produce."
That’s basically Griffin’s message. It’s that simple. The Cavs need to produce.
We’ve said that all along, but maybe Griffin can actually do something about it.
It’s true that as acting GM, Griffin won’t be donning a uniform and bringing the ball up the floor. He won’t be imploring the Cavs to bend their knees, shuffle their feet and defend during games. He probably won’t say much of anything at all. He doesn’t have to.
His task will be to implement a strong culture that Grant, try as he might, was unable to build.
Lately, the Cavs have gone in the other direction. When it comes to professional basketball and togetherness, the Cavs have sort of acted as the counter-culture.
Griffin understands his task is to change all that. He wants to end the nonsense and shape something closer to what was expected. The Cavs were expected to be a mostly young, mostly up-and-coming bunch that gave fans, at the very least, reasons for hope.
"It’s time to move on," Griffin said. "It’s time to capitalize on all of the benefits we have and, more than anything else, I think it’s time to really bring this to a place where everybody wants to be … where we believe in each other enough and trust each other enough to tell each other what they need to hear and to do it on the court."
Again, those in team circles have said Griffin has accomplished the first part. He has told Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Luol Deng and the rest what they need to hear. The rest is up to coach Mike Brown and the players.
Griffin is in his fourth season with the Cavs, taking the spot of assistant GM when Grant was promoted to Danny Ferry’s spot in 2010. But Griffin isn’t a Grant clone. Just because you work for somebody, it doesn’t mean you think exactly the way they do.
Griffin respected Grant. But this is Griffin’s show now. He’ll tackle it with his own slant.
Prior to coming to the Cavs, he worked in basketball operations with the Phoenix Suns since 1997.
"I’ve been part of a lot of success," Griffin said. "Some of it was because of me and some of it was despite me. But I think I have some real value in the area of personnel, I think I have real value in the area of leadership more than anything else."
Basically, Griffin’s career has been molded by more than Grant. He’s developed his own philosophy of how to manage things based on his own experiences.
He said a number of things that Cavs fans want to hear, including the idea that if the Cavs are to be involved at the trading deadline, they will be "buyers," as opposed to giving away existing talent.
"I don’t see how you get better and win more games selling," Griffin said. "We are dedicated to getting better."
But Griffin says he’s confident the Cavs, as currently constructed, can work. He probably only has 30ish games to prove that — but based on his attempts to influence things already, he appears as if he’s off to a commanding start.
"We don’t have to look cool," Griffin said. "We have to look like we’re in love with this. That’s what I want us to be.