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Art Garcia

Shortly after getting promoted in Cleveland, new GM Chris Grant hired Byron Scott (right) as coach.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Summer shuffling reaches league's front offices, too

Posted Aug 18 2010 7:27AM

We don't witness the likes of LeBron James switching sides every summer, but mass turnover is a given every offseason. It's part of the league's lifecycle, with a fresh crop of rookies coming in, current players swapping jerseys as they relocate in new cities and still others just deciding it's time to hang it up.

Coaches undergo their own shuffle. This offseason has seen new sideline skippers take over in Cleveland, Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, New Jersey and with the L.A. Clippers. As with the infusion of new players on a roster, each new coach comes of a promise of brighter days ahead.

But what about those largely responsible for the above? The wheelers and dealers, the personnel mavens and contract negotiators who scour the world for talent and hire the guys in expensive suits are under the same scrutiny as the familiar faces on the court every night.

The winds of change have swept through front offices around the league since the Lakers hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Portland, New Orleans, Phoenix, Cleveland and New Jersey have hired general managers since, Denver is currently undergoing a front-office restructuring. (The Suns and Philadelphia also brought on new presidents.)

The wave of new hires has naturally left a trail of former GMs out there, including Kevin Pritchard, Danny Ferry, Mark Warkentien, Jeff Bower, Kiki Vandeweghe and Mike Dunleavy. As for the new GMs on the block, here's a rundown:

Rich Cho, Portland

The 44-year-old former Boeing engineer who grew up outside of Seattle heads back to the Pacific Northwest after nine years with the Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Thunder franchise. Having worked his way up from the ranks of intern, Cho appears well versed in the many job duties required of today's GMs.

With a law degree from Pepperdine in tow, Cho's responsibilities with the Thunder as assistant GM included constructing trades, contract negotiations, salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement matters, player contracts and player personnel issues. He values the new-age use of analytics in evaluating players, but hasn't forsaken the importance of old-fashioned eyeball scouting.

Showing he understands the value of connecting with fans, Video Cho conducted an online chat shortly after getting the job. He believes the Blazers are a player or two away from competing for a title.

Lance Blanks, Phoenix

After five years in Cleveland's front office, the 43-year-old is a first-time GM under a first-time team president (Lon Babby) for a team that reached the Western Conference finals. Blanks has been around his share of winners. Not only was he a part of five Cavaliers playoff teams, including two that had the league's best record, he spent the previous three years as San Antonio's director of scouting.

Blanks logged three years in the league during the early 1990s (playing for Detroit and Minnesota) and has made his post-playing career mark on the personnel side. He's demonstrated an impressive track record in assessing talent, playing a critical role in drafting players such as Tony Parker, Luis Scola and J.J. Hickson.

He takes over a team in transition despite last season's unexpected playoff run. The Suns failed to re-sign Amar'e Stoudemire in the offseason and instead has added Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress.

Dell Demps, New Orleans

Crisis management and the willingness to stick your neck out are two of the many traits needed in a GM. Demps, on the job less than a month, has already Video dealt head on with Chris Paul rumors and pulled off a major trade. Welcome to the hot seat, Dell.

On his first full day on the job, Demps -- along with new coach and old friend Monty Williams -- met with Paul to discuss the star point guard's future with the Hornets. The parties involved insisted that Paul is committed to New Orleans. To that end, Demps traded for Houston swingman Trevor Ariza last week in an ongoing effort to upgrade the roster around CP3.

Demps, 40, comes to New Orleans after serving five years in San Antonio's director of player personnel. He also served as general manager of the Spurs-owned NBA D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros. A teammate of Williams in the mid-1990s, Demps enjoyed a 10-year playing career that included stops overseas. After retiring, he worked as a D-League assistant before joining New York as a scout in 2003.

Chris Grant, Cleveland

Another first-time GM immediately thrown into the fire. Not only did Grant have LeBron James' impending decision hanging over his head after taking over for friend and mentor Danny Ferry in early June, he also had a coaching search to deal with.

The Cavaliers have begun the process of moving on post-LeBron behind Grant, owner Dan Gilbert and coach Byron Scott. Grant, 38, spent five years as Ferry's right-hand man. With 15 years of experience -- he spent the previous 10 in Atlanta -- Grant is well known and respected around the league.

As vice president of basketball operations, Grant oversaw the team's college scouting department and preparations for the draft. Contract negotiations were also on his plate. His task now is to reposition the Cavs and, as Gilbert promised, help deliver a championship parade before South Beach.

Billy King, New Jersey

Hand-picked by new Philadelphia president Rod Thorn as his successor, King inherits a new coach (Avery Johnson), the purse strings of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and the league's worst team. But optimism runs deep with the as-of-now-named Nets, who have a two-year detour through Newark before putting down stakes in Brooklyn.

King, 44, beat out former college teammate Danny Ferry for the Jersey job. King came on board after the Draft and after most of the dust settled in free agency, but he did help execute last week's four-team trade that landed Troy Murphy.

King is lead executive for the second time in the NBA, having previously served as Philadelphia general manager before being promoted to team president from 2003-07. He spent 10 years in the Sixers' front office. He's also worked with USA Basketball and was an assistant under Larry Brown in Indiana.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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