Storyline: Cavaliers Front Office

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Joe Vardon: Much has been made about the ‘chaos’ surrounding the Cavs over the summer. Was there a point where you felt it, too? Koby Altman: I mean, there was certainly a shock when you come to the office and David Griffin’s not there. The leader of the franchise and an incredible mentor to me. But, we’ve dealt with an incredible scrutiny nationally, locally, the outside narrative of chaos. We don’t listen to that. We’ve gone through that. Actually our most controversial year was when we won the championship. We made a coaching change midseason. And so we deal with that stuff, we just put our head down and go. We sort of ignore the noise. And throughout the offseason we were making positive additions. Again, the outside narrative wasn’t that, but every addition we made: from Jose Calderon, re-signing Kyle Korver, bringing Jeff Green in, Derrick Rose. These are really positive incremental steps to getting better, and that’s, we thought the team we were going to bring back was championship level. We’re going to add to get incrementally better.

Joe Vardon (cleveland.com): So, you once worked in real estate? Koby Altman: I graduated from Middlebury College, a prestigious liberal arts school in New England where you think when you graduate that you have to go make money. All my friends went into finance or banking or whatever the case may be. I had no business background at all, so I said let me try to do something to put some business onto my resume so I started out in commercial real estate. We sold apartment buildings and I did pretty well at the start, so I was like, ‘let me stay into that.’ It probably was about three years before I really felt like I missed basketball. But that real estate background really prepared me for this job and any walk of life in terms of negotiation, dealing with people, very important people, very wealthy people that are motivated.

The Cavaliers hired former Utah Jazz front-office hand Andrae Patterson as their director of basketball administration, a source told cleveland.com. Patterson, 41, will work in a number of areas for the Cavs, from various player development programs to scouting both in the U.S. and overseas. He joins general manager Koby Altman’s staff after working as a personnel/player programs coordinator for the Jazz since 2015. In June the Cavs lost then-general manager David Griffin and his top assistant, Trent Redden. They also let salary-cap expert Anthony Leotti go over the summer.

During an appearance on ESPN’ The Jump, Griffin gave a brief, yet informative, breakdown pertaining to the outlook of the Cavs after all the moves done by the team’s current front office so far this offseason. Griffin was most impressed by the Cavs upgrading their defense that was toyed in last season’s NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors. Griffin was particularly positive of the addition of Crowder and Jeff Green to the roster, as he believes the two would make it easier for the team to adjust to opposing offenses. “They’ve done a really good job of getting more defensive versatility with the Crowder piece. Jeff Green is a nice acquisition at minimum that is going to be versatile piece for them as well.
3 months ago via ESPN

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert hired a private law firm to investigate whether Miami Heat president Pat Riley tampered to bring James to South Beach in 2010. The NBA dismissed Gilbert’s claim and absolved the Heat. If James does go somewhere else next summer, you have to wonder if Gilbert will choose to look into tampering once again. Even beyond James’ upcoming situation, anytime you hear of a multimillion-dollar deal agreed upon at 9:01 p.m. PT when free agency opens up, tampering will be questioned. Anytime a trade comes out of nowhere, tampering will be questioned. Said one assistant coach to ESPN: “I don’t know if it will ever stop.”

Koby Altman may be the latest person to call himself Cleveland Cavaliers general manager—the fourth in the past 12 years since Dan Gilbert bought the team—but multiple sources have told me that the Cavs owner was the one calling the shots on the trade that sent Irving to Boston, and he’s the one dealing with the fallout. Gilbert’s dysfunctional ways are old news. Gilbert himself joked during Altman’s introductory presser that his GMs have four-year presidential terms. “A state of organizational chaos is Gilbert’s M.O.,” one executive told me. “Gilbert thinks he’s the protagonist in the story of the Cavaliers, when, in reality, he’s the antagonist.”

Gilbert’s fingerprints were all over the drama that’s unfolded over the past week. Thomas’s health is what held up the deal, but according to multiple league sources with knowledge of Cleveland’s thought process, the unprotected Nets pick and Crowder were the pieces that Cleveland valued the most—those were the assets that got the deal done, not Thomas. The perception of the trade was that the Cavaliers and Celtics swapped franchise point guards, but for the Cleveland front office (and its owner), Thomas was the icing, not the cake.

Chris Broussard: “They think this is all just a bunch of drama and talk, and we all know LeBron likes drama. So, again, we don’t know. But if I had to make a pick, I would say he does stay in Cleveland. I wouldn’t bet my house on it, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d predict that he stays in Cleveland. But at this point, I don’t think LeBron knows what he’s going to do. We know that this has been his M.O. for the last several years. Even when he went back to Cleveland from Miami, it was on a short-term deal. He wants to keep to his options open for various reasons – to keep Dan Gilbert on edge, to keep [the front office] trying to make the team better and just for other personal reasons. LeBron likes playing in this situation. I think that’s his M.O. and I don’t think we should assume that he’s definitely leaving Cleveland because he won’t commit there long-term.”

Chris Broussard: “However, there is reason to believe that he would leave. Heading into the draft, we know that Cleveland had a deal on the table where they could’ve gotten Eric Bledsoe and Paul George for Kyrie Irving in a three-team deal [with the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers]. Dan Gilbert went to LeBron and wanted him to sign long-term. He said, ‘I’ll do the deal if you sign long-term.’ And I’m told that Paul George was willing to [opt-in] to the final year of his contract. He wasn’t ready to commit long-term, but he told Cleveland, ‘Look, if you do this, I’ll pick up my option,’ so he would’ve been there for two years. And LeBron, still, did not commit long-term. Now, again, I’m not saying this means he is definitely gone, but it’s certainly a red-flag.”

Chris Broussard: “And with the Lakers, there are so many questions. Let’s see what Lonzo Ball is. Let’s see what Brandon Ingram is. Let’s see what Paul George is willing to do. I don’t see LeBron going there by himself, without another star, so what happens if Oklahoma City gets to the Western Conference Finals and loses in seven games? Does Paul George stay? Again, I think there are too many questions, at this point, for LeBron to know where he wants to go.”

Given how far along the two sides are and what the Cavs are getting in return for disgruntled point guard Kyrie Irving — Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first round pick — former Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin believes protege Koby Altman should proceed as planned, saying he would make the same deal if still running the front office. “I think I would have,” Griffin told NBA TV late Tuesday night. “I really think Koby Altman made a tremendous trade here, given the circumstances. When you’re trying to win a championship, there is no in between. You’re all the way with me, or you’re all the way against me. And I think this was a situation where Kyrie made it clear he had a goal set that might not have jived with what Cleveland’s was.

Trying to persuade James to stay home won’t be easy. Altman is also handcuffed by the mammoth payroll that won’t budge enough for a marquee free agent even if Thomas bolts. Even so, with James, Thomas and Love, the deep Cavaliers still have a roster capable of advancing to a fourth-straight NBA Finals and possibly winning. It will be tougher with Irving joining forces with All-Star forward Hayward, forwards Al Horford and budding star Jaylen Brown, and heralded rookie Jayson Tatum. But Boston will desperately need to be one of the NBA’s best scoring teams after losing some defensive standouts in Crowder, center Amir Johnson and more notably Avery Bradley.
3 months ago via ESPN

Redden worked with Winger in Cleveland, where he rose in the executive ranks as a well-regarded talent evaluator who worked under Danny Ferry, Chris Grant and Griffin. He will complement Winger, who has established a reputation as an expert strategist with a steady administrative hand and strong negotiating skills. For years, the Clippers had among the thinnest staffs in the NBA under the thrifty ownership of Donald Sterling. Since the arrival of Steve Ballmer in 2014, the franchise has grown into a robust organization with a basketball operations department that has expanded exponentially in size. Sources say the team has plans to add another assistant general manager to its brain trust.

James Jones working for Altman? — Matt Hey, Matt: There were considerations for Jones on the Cavs’ side in terms of a front-office role, as well as a discussion between the two sides in relation to what he wanted to do in retirement, a league source told cleveland.com. Jones ultimately wanted to be in Phoenix, where he is vice president of basketball operations, and where he played for two seasons early in his career. The source said Jones’ decision was not related to the tumult that’s surrounded the Cavs this offseason.

Altman said the James-Irving feud was “overblown” by the media. Altman mentioned that he signed Rose on his first official day on the job and that the media should be talking more about the franchise’s offseason additions. Altman also told reporters that the Cavaliers will keep things “in-house” on Irving. “A lot of it has been overblown,” Altman said. “I think the people who are in this building every day haven’t seen any of that animosity. This is, along with [forward] Kevin Love, this is a group that got us to three straight Finals and won an NBA championship together. They play great together on the floor, and a lot of that I do think is overblown. We haven’t seen a lot of that ‘animosity’ that’s been out there in the media.”
4 months ago via ESPN

Billups didn’t speak with James until after he decided to turn down the job and James’ plans for 2018 when he can become a free agent didn’t directly factor into the decision. “The whole LeBron leaving the next year, to be honest that didn’t bother me that much,” Billups said. “Here’s why: when you have an opportunity to really put something together and put your imprint on it — rebuilding is a beautiful thing if the (owner) is going to have the patience with you. What bothered me more than if LeBron left or not was I didn’t think they had great assets if you have to do a rebuild. It was more that than Bron. Bron and I have always had an amazing relationship.”

Meanwhile, the Cavs also missed out on bringing Chauncey Billups in to run the front office. When Gilbert announced Griffin would not be back with the team, he said in a statement, “We are confident our current front office will continue to aggressively explore and pursue opportunities to improve our team in the weeks ahead.” According to a person familiar with the Cavs’ front office, Gilbert is continuing the process of evaluating the leadership roles, structure and potential candidates. He feels the current group in the room has been impressive and done a very good job in the short term as they have continued to take important steps to position the team for success. That group will continue to focus on that and Gilbert is confident this process will result in creating the strong leadership the team needs and expects, the person told USA TODAY Sports on Monday. The person was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue and requested anonymity.

Billups could’ve been Cleveland’s president of basketball operations, and Lue’s boss. It could have been a conflict of interest for Billups, who would’ve had to view Lue’s job performance critically. “I talked to him about the situation,” Lue said. “Any time you get the chance to advance, be the president and GM, it’s always something great. I know it’s something he always wanted to do. “But I just kind of stayed out of the situation because I was so close to Griff, so close to Chauncey, so I didn’t want anything to do with it.”
5 months ago via ESPN

Chauncey Billups withdraws from consideration for Cavs' job

Chauncey Billups has withdrawn from consideration for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ president of basketball operations job, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Billups had met twice last week with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert about a future with the club. They have known each other for a decade, and Gilbert is looking for someone to oversee the Cavaliers’ front office after general manager David Griffin parted ways with the team following three straight trips to the NBA Finals.
5 months ago via ESPN

“I have great respect for Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and I greatly appreciate the discussions we had regarding their organization,” Billups told ESPN. “As I have conveyed before, ultimately I would like to lead a team’s basketball operation and be a part of a successful franchise. But presently, the timing just isn’t right to delve into that role in Cleveland. In the meantime, I will continue to focus on broadcasting and my other business endeavors.”

Owner Dan Gilbert has offered Chauncey Billups a five-year contract to head up the Cavaliers front office, but Billups has yet to accept, sources with knowledge of the talks told The Athletic. The two spent all day Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena, where Billups was introduced to a number of the executives who would be working under him, one source with knowledge of the meeting told The Athletic. It was the second consecutive day of meetings between Gilbert and Billups.

Chauncey has actually been rumored to be in the running for the open GM job in Cleveland. Can you see him in that type of role whether it’s with the Cavs or another team? Paul Pierce: Yeah, actually me and Chauncey talked about that before. He said he wanted to be in a front office and I think he will be great. He’s young, he’s smart, he’s been a champion in this league and I just think that players can relate to Chauncey, like when he has a free agent meeting or things of that nature. I always thought he would be good in that type of position because of his IQ for the game and what he can bring to the table.
5 months ago via ESPN

“We shouldn’t be shocked after we fired our head coach when we were in first place in the middle of the season,” Jefferson said Tuesday, referring to David Blatt’s dismissal in January 2016. “Still, it’s surprising.” Jefferson said he had a lengthy conversation with Griffin on Monday night after the news broke. He likened the ending to a “no-fault divorce,” pointing out that Gilbert did indeed tender an offer to Griffin — the details of which are not known — which Griffin walked away from.

Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin left for his successors potential trades to bring either Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George to the team, sources told cleveland.com, and one or more deals Griffin constructed could happen without him. In either case, a third team would be involved and would take All-Star forward Kevin Love in exchange for the mix of picks and role players the Bulls and Pacers seek to rebuild in the event they choose to deal their franchise player.
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