Saturday, February 15, 2014

The firing of Chris Grant as general manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team was needed, writes Cleveland Urban News.Com Sportswriter Karl Kimbrough, Grant did not have Head Coach Mike Brown's back, says Kimbrough

From left: Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball Team Owner Dan Gilbert, Cavaliers Head Coach Mike Brown, Former Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant, and Acting Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin

By Karl Kimbrough, Cleveland Urban News.Com Sportswriter ( Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper and Newspaper Blog. Tel: 216-659-0473 

Cleveland Urban News.Com
Sportswriter Karl Kimbrough
CLEVELAND, Ohio-Recently terminated Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant, whom team owner Dan Gilbert fired last week, attended the University of San Diego some two and a half decades ago as did a 6” 10” center named Mike Brown, who is now head coach for the Cavaliers, a major sports attraction for the major American city.

With their friendship and so much history between the two, one would think that Grant would have had Brown's back while the two worked together to improve this Cleveland basketball team. That did not apparently prove to be the case, and ultimately Grant's failure to back up his coach led to his firing, some say. This was truly mind boggling because Grant had the training and came up the ranks the right way to be what the NBA deems "a good GM."

Grant came into the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks immediately after completing graduate school. Prior to that he earned a degree in psychology and a master's degree in educational leadership at the University of San Diego. After being hired by the Hawks Grant held several different positions as he worked his way up to vice president of operations and assistant general manager in 2004. In 2004, another friend of Grant's, Danny Ferry, hired him to work for the Cavaliers. When Ferry resigned, Grant was promoted to Ferry's general manager position. In May 2013 Grant fired head coach Byron Scott for his lack of producing more wins and hired Brown, his old friend who was head coach during LeBron James' seven-year stint with the Cavaliers.

The ending of the LeBron James era in Cleveland brought many challenges for both Grant and Brown. Grant had a plan of how he would restructure the team to bring a winner this season. Grant's plan involved dismantling that 2010-2011 team and getting into the draft lottery by losing early on his first few years then choosing the right talent who could form a good nucleus to build around. Along with that, bringing in low priced free agent veterans like C. J. Miles and Jarrett Jack to play with holdover Anderson Varejao was part of the strategy, one in efforts to build a nucleus of 19, 20, and 21 -year old players.

The Cavaliers had the second youngest team in the NBA at the beginning of this season. Having so many young draft picks and lower priced free agents would put the team in a salary cap friendly situation at the end of this 2013-2014 season. Then the Cavaliers would be in a position to attract the better high priced free agents like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to solidify them as a strong playoff contender for years to come.

Grant should be commended for making moves and trades to have the team in position to land a few high priced free agents at the end of this season. But this journey to nurture the young upstart high potential players must be coupled with the development of those players. Some may feel that this area of development on the floor is up to the coach to mold the young team into one that plays well together. To a certain extent that is true, but when shopping for these players recruiters must remember that ultimately the team must secure the right ingredients for the new recruits to come together and mesh well.

While Grant brought in players with a lot of basketball talent and upside athletically, it was obvious that he did not consider other key factors. Qualities like character, being tough minded, a history of being team first players, having a passion for the game, and not having a feeling of entitlement are key points. These types of qualities need to be present along with the talent you're looking for. Otherwise the team can become a dysfunctional team. Chemistry, or the lack thereof, has been at the center of the Cavaliers team problems.

Instead of supporting Coach Brown by reprimanding players as needed, Grant appeared to be more of an enabler. Andrew Bynum was not the only player to have conduct detrimental to the team. Grant used that excuse as an opportunity to trade a player he did not want for a two time all star in Luol Deng. A source close to the team indicates that players have allegedly been allowed to be late to practices, and for bus trips to arenas when on the road.

On various occasions players have acted disrespectful to coaches, including Coach Brown. Even storming out of practice early did not bring a reprimand, and players were allowed to play in a game the next day. What kind of message is the coach and management sending to these young players? Simply put, they were being enabled.

Before Grant was fired the players were too comfortable with what they wanted to do and how they wanted to play. Grant was accused of not showing the players that he supported his coach. He did not use his degree in psychology very well when dealing with the players, critics say.

On the day owner Dan Gilbert fired Grant he said that “we need an environmental and cultural change,” which left you wondering how would the environment and culture be different with Grant not being around. We found the answer to that question when new acting general manager David Griffin went to Washington to address the team before their first game after Grant was let go.

Griffin drew the line and laid down the law, letting the players know they would not be around long if they did not play hard. He also let them know that any indiscretions would require a fine. In the NBA there are no limitations on how much a player can be fined by his team. Before the Grant firing, the Cavaliers were on a six game losing streak. Since the debacle against the L.A. Lakers at home, this team is four and zero, and the players are now willingly playing like they like each other.

If only Grant were fired sooner. Would his earlier firing, had it occurred, have operated to solidify a spot in the playoff race for the Cavaliers? ( / (