The Diff with Griff

February 10, 2014
David Griffin

Before Sunday’s matchup with Memphis, the Cavaliers officially introduced David Griffin as the acting GM, and he made an immediate impression on the collective media – laying out his vision for the immediate future and what he’d like to see in the second half of a salvageable season.

“I want to see us smile more,” said Griffin, who joined the Cavs as VP of Basketball Operations in 2010. “I want to see us enjoy this. I want to see us remember that this is a game. I want to see us remember that there’s passion involved in all this.

“We don’t have to look cool; we have to look like we’re in love with this. That’s what I want us to be.”

(Asked if something as simple as a player’s happiness could actually affect their performance on the hardwood, Griffin didn’t hesitate: “One hundred percent,” replied Griffin. “No good player is at their best unless they’re happy.”)

David Griffin spent 17 seasons with the Phoenix Suns, the last three as the team’s senior VP of Basketball Operations after being named to that position in 2007. He was groomed under former Cavalier, Steve Kerr, and was part of a Suns team that reached three Conference Finals.

In his early appearance, Griffin showed he’s a guy who shoots from the hip and speaks from the heart. He sounded as much like a team psychologist as its general manager. Or, in Griffin’s own words: “I won’t be different. I am different.”

”I think ultimately what I’m good at, if I have a skill, is empowering people and making them believe in themselves,” added former political science major. “And so I want to do that for people and I want other people to do that too. This is a culture of We, it’s not a culture of Me. And somewhere along the line we lost that.”

Watch Press Conference: David Griffin

In both Friday’s and Sunday’s wins, the Cavaliers looked like they were having fun playing the game again, playing as a cohesive unit – something that’s been blatantly missing since they returned from a successful West Coast trip in late January.

Kyrie Irving, who had a double-double by halftime on Friday and led everyone with 28 points on Sunday, has led the Wine and Gold’s mini-revival.

“Going out there for the last two games, it’s just been fun,” said the Cavs All-Star following Sunday’s 91-83 win. “Whether the game is tight or it gets away from you, competing should be fun. I feel like everybody is saying the same message and is going out there and playing for one another.”

Whether winning has changed the vibe around the team or the vibe around the team helped them win games is anyone’s guess. But the mood in CavalierLand is distinctly different than it was just days ago, when the team’s majority owner illustrated his unhappiness.

“I don’t think (Coach) Mike (Brown) is happy or anybody’s happy with how the performance of this team has gone this year, but there’s no use sugarcoating it,” said Dan Gilbert last Thursday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “We can do better, we should do better and, hopefully, we will do better.”

Gilbert spoke of the Cavaliers needing “an environmental, cultural change.” And just days into David Griffin’s tenure, we’ve already seen a slight, subtle difference.

David Griffin draws his experience from some heavyweights in the Suns organization – and in the NBA in general: Jerry Colangelo, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Dick Van Arsdale.

“I think this move being made is an effort to find the right fit,” said Griffin. “It’s absolutely not an indictment of an individual, because none of this is about an individual; none of this is individual lack of execution, individual failures as a player. None of it. It’s a total product. And we’ve lost our way somewhere. We’ve lost it in terms of faith in one another – not our talent, not our coaching. We’ve lost the ability to believe that the next guy has my back.”

After coming into the campaign with postseason aspirations, it’s been a frustrating, disjointed season for the Wine and Gold. They’re on the outside of the playoff picture looking in and have had a pair of six-game losing streaks since late December. But they’ve won two straight after the front office upheaval and look to close out the season’s unofficial first half on a roll.

“Everyone wants to have fun in this business and smile,” said Coach Mike Brown before Sunday’s game. “But when you’re losing and there are expectations and you’ve never been put in this situation, it’s tough. First and second year, when there are no expectations, (you) go out, have fun, try to get 15 or 16 [points] and don’t think twice about it. This year there were expectations placed upon us. We haven’t attained the expectations placed upon us so far. So how do you handle it? This is part of the growing process.”

The Cavaliers have 31 more games left in the 2013-14 season. And in the Eastern Conference, postseason possibilities still exist – with the Wine and Gold sitting just four games out of the eighth seed. After the All-Star Break, the Cavs play four of their seven remaining February games at home. They have a remaining three-game West Coast trip in mid-March and only one of their opponents in April has an above-.500 record (Atlanta, 25-24).

So basically, anything can happen after the All-Star Break. And both Dan Gilbert and David Griffin has admitted that Cleveland won’t be shy if the opportunity presents itself by the Trade Deadline on February 20.

And if they make a run at the playoffs over the next eight weeks, basketball is definitely going to be fun again on the corner of Huron and Ontario. The talent is there. Now it’s a matter of making it work.

“We came into the year with very high expectations and I think, nationally, people had them too because we have a really compelling group of talent,” concluded Griffin. “So as we move forward, what we’re going to look for is to make those pieces fit together better. That’s all. No more, no less.”