Recently, Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin commented that building the eventual 2016 championship team with LeBron James was “miserable” while also commenting that he knew he was not going to stay with the team after winning the championship. As we know, he would go on to leave the team in 2017.
While his comments may be viewed as shocking, possibly ridiculous considering what he achieved, is there any merit to them?
On one hand, while LeBron James is likely to go down as the greatest Cavalier to don the Wine and Gold, on the other, it’s easy to partially see why he created David Griffin a headache. LeBron thoroughly enjoyed exerting his massive leverage over the Cavaliers’ front office, to the tune of forcing numerous ‘one-n-done’ contracts, allowing him to leave the team whenever he so pleased – forcing the front office to essentially bend to his will. LeBron used said leverage to advocate for lengthy, expensive contract extensions for the likes of JR Smith, Tristan Thompson and more.
Of course, LeBron James isn’t at the helm (necessarily) of the numerous trades and signings Griffin was pressured into doing. And, of course, LeBron was at the forefront of glory when the team finally took home a trophy in 2016.
While nobody but Griffin himself can speak on his personal, professional ambitions, it’s quite conceivable that feeling forced into doing things you’d never do otherwise would indeed make the job ‘miserable.’ Because let’s be honest, who in the world thought that Tristan Thompson was ever worth a five-year, 82 million dollar deal?
In Griffin’s case, it was “damned if I do, damned if I don’t.” You either make these horrible moves, compromising the team’s cap space ludicrously, or you don’t, and you risk losing LeBron, making everything else irrelevant. Maybe the latter would’ve been alright had Griffin been a member of, say, the Knicks, the Grizzlies or perhaps the Suns. But in Cleveland, the fans pack the seats, are profoundly passionate, and above all else, have habitually been deprived of a consistently successful on-the-field product. Not giving in to LeBron’s demands and essentially driving him away would’ve probably made Griffin even more miserable in the long haul.
Is there actual merit to what Griffin said, then?
Not as much as it would seem. Griffin was still a key component to arranging that 2016 championship team, even if he didn’t get the credit he deserved. The magic from that fateful Game 7 may have worn off in our minds, but it was still incredible. And winning a championship in professional sports of any league is something that requires intense time, energy, even a bit of luck as well. That’s not even considering how much money is put into it all. After achieving such a goal for a championship starved city, it doesn’t really matter how you got there – you got there. That team of 2016 will be immortalized by the City of Cleveland for finally ending the city’s drought.
It is lacking in perspective to have felt ‘miserable’ as a takeaway from all of that. On paper, Griffin’s sentiments are justifiable. But in reality, any other GM would’ve killed for the right to claim to be ‘the one’ to bring Cleveland a trophy.