Cavs make Grant fall guy for awful season
The Cleveland Cavaliers made a big change with another season falling apart, firing general manager Chris Grant on Thursday.
Grant was fired a day after the Cavs dropped their sixth straight game, an embarrassing home loss to a Los Angeles Lakers team that started with eight players and finished with five. Vice president of basketball operations David Griffin will serve as acting general manager.
Owner Dan Gilbert made it clear he’s unhappy with what has transpired in a season that began with hopes the Cavs would make the playoffs after a three-year absence.
“This has been a very difficult period for the franchise,” Gilbert said in a statement. “We have severely underperformed against expectations. Just as this is completely unacceptable to our loyal and passionate fan base, season ticket holders and corporate partners, it is also just as unacceptable to our ownership group.”
Gilbert also met with reporters at the team’s training facility following the announcement. He expressed confidence that the Cavs can show improvement under coach Mike Brown over the final 33 games. Grant was instrumental in the rehiring of Brown, who was fired during his first stint with the team in 2010.
Gilbert was asked if Brown’s job was safe for the rest of this season.
“We’re going to see Mike Brown succeed this year because I think that he’ll be able to do good things and I think this team will be able to do good things,” Gilbert said. “I think they’re going to look at each other and they’re going to look in the mirror and they’re going to rally.”
Gilbert also was asked why he decided to change his general manager but not his coach.
“Coach Brown has only been here over half a season,” he said. “Chris Grant has been here 81/2 years. He’s been the general manager almost four years. There’s a lot of talent on this team. I think everybody knows that.”
Gilbert promised last spring the Cavs would not return to the NBA lottery, but Cleveland is 16-33 and has dropped six in a row — matching its longest losing streak of the season. The Cavs are 51/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference and their only win in the last nine games came over Milwaukee, which has the league’s worst record.
“Accountability starts with me,” Gilbert said. “I take responsibility for where we’re at.”
Grant’s tenure will be known for not being able to rebuild the Cavs fast enough despite having a slew of first-round draft picks, including two No. 1 overall selections.
Grant addressed the team’s poor play last week, saying everyone in the organization was accountable, including himself. Grant took Anthony Bennett with the first pick last June and then signed free-agent center Andrew Bynum during the summer when no other team would offer the 7-footer a contract. Grant was able to unload Bynum in a trade with Chicago for Luol Deng, but the forward’s arrival has done little to invigorate the Cavs.
Cleveland has been under .500 since the fifth game of the season and the players have been slow to pick up Brown’s system on both ends of the floor.
In a season that’s already had too many low moments, the Cavs hit rock bottom Wednesday. Not only did they fall behind by 29 points to Los Angeles, the Lakers played the final few minutes with five healthy players, including one who was allowed to remain in the game after committing his sixth foul because coach Mike D’Antoni was out of bodies.
The Cavs were booed throughout the game and Brown, who has been unable to come up with any answers to stop his team’s skid, benched All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and three other starters in the fourth quarter as Cleveland got back in the game before losing 119-108.
The acquisition of Deng last month brought hope the season could be salvaged, but that proved to be temporary. The Cavs went 3-2 on a West Coast trip, but followed that with a 1-4 record on its longest homestand of the season. Cleveland then lost three consecutive road games, including a 31-point rout by the Knicks on national television.
Grant joined the organization in 2005 as vice president of basketball operations/assistant general manager. He was hired as general manager on June 4, 2010. Griffin was hired later that year after spending 17 seasons with the Phoenix Suns, the last three as the club’s senior vice president of basketball operations.