David Griffin isn’t in charge of the Cleveland Cavaliers anymore, though he’s agreed with a lot of what the team has done since he parted ways with the franchise this summer.
He agreed that Kyrie Irving needed to go “quickly,” and he was happy with the return for Irving from the Celtics, calling it “tremendous” after the deal went down. He’s even said the team was in better shape than it was before he left as GM.
Griffin spoke on Siriux XM NBA radio on Tuesday and admitted that if Irving had come to him with a trade request, he would have found a way to make a trade work. He also defended Irving and gave a pretty interesting explanation for why Irving wanted out in the first place.
“Kyrie knows this and we’ve talked about this very clearly,” Griffin said. “If he had articulated to me that… he wanted to be traded, we’d have traded him.”
This isn’t much of a surprise considering that Griffin has spoken publicly about the Irving trade at length. In his time away from the Cavs, he’s become somewhat of a pundit, but he also has more insight on Irving and the Cavs than perhaps anyone not still with the team. What’s interesting is that Griffin said his status, which was unknown before his contract was not renewed, impacted a lot of what the Cavaliers did or did not do in the days leading up to the draft.
“Because I left the Monday before the draft, there were many many conversations we had up to that point relative to what will execute,” Griffin said. “And because we had not made the decision whether we were going to be there long-term, we had a lot of things teed up and deals that could have been made.”
Griffin’s response comes after a question about a potential Paul George trade, and he sensed the direction the narrative is going. But the answer to why Irving left is not simple. There’s no major turning point according to Griffin.
“I think everyone wants to find sort of that silver bullet, that magic bullet that made it all end,” Griffin said. “It wasn’t that, it was a gradual day-to-day thing: the evolution of a young guy that went from being the first pick in the draft to being an Olympic champion, an NBA champion, a guy who made the biggest shot in the history of Cleveland. You evolve and change that way.”
Griffin also went in depth about Kyrie’s personality and the change he underwent as the Cavaliers went from his team to the perennial contender they are now with LeBron James.
“I think he grew in our organization immensely. He came to our organization as a 19-year-old kid who played in 11 college games. He came to a team that was not very good, that did not have that same expectancy of winning. Did not have a culture of accountability. So he grew up as a young player sort of directionless in ‘what are we trying to achieve tonight?’
So what he was trying to achieve was to do the most he possibly could with his talent. So I think what happened is now we’re all about championships every minute of every day. He loses some of the reign he had. It’s natural to kind of resist that when you have the level of talent he has.”
It’s valuable insight into how Irving has grown as a player and part of what makes him who he is today: someone who wants to win it all as the focal point, not a secondary weapon. Griffin still seems to have a fondness and respect for Irving as a player and a person, and his comments have been valuable in the months since he’s left Cleveland’s front office. It will take some time before we know whether Irving asking out was the right call for him, though, but Griffin doesn’t seem to think it was wrong.