The Cleveland Cavaliers finally canned general manager Chris Grant, a move long overdue and one that symbolized the franchise's desperate desire to do something (anything!) to change the course of what looks increasingly like yet another lost season.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports broke the news Feb. 6:
The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired general manager Chris Grant, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 6, 2014
It was a decision that had to be made. The question now is: How much will Grant's firing affect the other key figures in the Cavs franchise he's leaving behind?
It's a tough question because even though Grant is largely responsible for more than three seasons of dubious draft picks, indefensible coaching hires and, of course, rampant on-court failure, he wasn't the only problem.
The decision came down mere hours after Cleveland hit rock bottom, losing a home game to the lottery-bound Los Angeles Lakers, who were playing the second game of a back-to-back set and featured just four eligible players down the stretch.
Grant leaves behind a shattered franchise. Fortunately for him, he's not the guy who has to pick up the pieces.
As the Cavs try to save themselves, it's going to be very interesting to see how the organization's remaining key figures will be affected by Grant's departure.
We might as well start with what was probably Grant's biggest blunder, which is saying something for a guy who took Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick.
Mike Brown. 5 years 20m. What on earth.— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) February 6, 2014
Mike Brown is now a confirmed lightweight as a strategist. We've seen him fail to innovate in every stop of his career and he hasn't ever shown any acumen for sorting out sensible rotations. In fact, we now know Brown's only success came as a result of LeBron James' singular brilliance. If anything, Brown's first stint with the Cavs was successful in spite of his presence and not because of it.
The man can't coach an NBA offense, clearly does nothing to preserve locker room harmony and shouldn't expect to ever be a head coach again after he leaves his post in Cleveland.
Unless Grant was secretly the man responsible for the Cavaliers' embarrassing effort and execution, there's not much his firing will do for Brown.
Then again, the fact that Grant got the axe before Brown indicates the coach might not actually be on the hot seat. Cutting Grant loose amounts to an acknowledgement that owner Dan Gilbert believes the problem with his Cavaliers is the man who went shopping for the groceries and not the chef.
Gilbert on Brown's job: We’re going to see Mike Brown succeed this year. I think he will be able to do good things in the next 30 games.— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) February 6, 2014
Perhaps the move bought Brown enough time to survive this season.
I'm not sure that's good news for anybody, including the coach himself, who can't be having any fun these days.
In much the same way, Grant's leaving might take a bit of pressure off of Kyrie Irving.
Mired in the midst of a down season and displaying the kind of body language you usually see at funerals, Irving's struggles might seem less severe now that heads are rolling.
Plus, the fact that Cleveland promoted from within could indicate it's willing to install a puppet or figurehead in Grant's spot that might allow Irving to have more say in personnel decisions. That's a dangerous approach, but it's one the Cavs should consider if they're hoping to keep Irving around.
Cavs announce David Griffin has taken charge of Cleveland front office as acting GM to replace the fired Chris Grant— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 6, 2014
And frankly, it's not ridiculous to assume that Irving had some say in the elimination of the executive who surrounded him with such an underwhelming supporting cast.
On the court, Brown is still an overmatched coach and Irving is still surrounded by a bunch of subpar players who don't like each other very much. So it's hard to see how Grant getting fired will have any tangible effect on Irving's play.
Still, if Grant leaving gives Cleveland even the slightest improvement in its chances to keep Irving happy, the move was probably a good thing for the team's future.
It's hard to imagine Bennett ever becoming a key part of the Cavs' long-term plans, but maybe he'll enjoy a bit more freedom from the expectations of being the No. 1 pick now that the man who drafted him is gone.
Grant's dismissal is a clear admission that the Cavaliers aren't happy with the way they've been drafting lately, and more specifically, that Bennett's selection was a mistake. In a strange way, this alleviates some pressure from Bennett; the Cavs are tacitly telling him it isn't his fault they overreached to pick him at No. 1.
Maybe that knowledge will free him up to play a bit better during the rest of his rookie campaign.
Then again, anytime there's front office turnover, the players brought on by said front office automatically lose some measure of job security. That could mean Bennett winds up on the trade block as the Cavaliers seek to cleanse themselves of the previous regime's mistakes.
It's important to mention here that Grant might not have been Bennett's strongest advocate in the first place:
On the upside, rumor has it Grant was kinda against picking Bennett. So he has that to take with him.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) February 6, 2014
Nonetheless, he was the team's top personnel man, so any draft misfire ultimately falls on him.
If it's possible to lower expectations for Bennett below where they already are, Grant's firing might do just that.
Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, et al
Grant either drafted or decided to retain every player on the Cavaliers roster, which means they're all now in jeopardy of being moved.
As I mentioned in regards to Bennett, guys like Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and even Tyler Zeller could (and should) find themselves in trade discussions before the deadline. If a frustrated Irving has more of a say, expect a push to clean house.
If the impatient Gilbert weighs in, expect the same.
Basically, whatever job security Cleveland's various personnel once had is now even more greatly diminished—as it should be.
The proverbial buck doesn't stop with Grant.
Gilbert has now presided over nine years of futility in Cleveland, a few of which were masked by James' cure-all presence on the roster. He's the man in charge. He's the guy who hired Grant. He's the guy who is indirectly responsible for the vast and varied failings of his employees.
The only reprieve from criticism for Grant is that it's always hard to decipher which decisions were his & which were owner-induced.— Brett Koremenos (@BKoremenos) February 6, 2014
And that's the saddest part of this whole situation: Nothing is really going to change in Cleveland as long as Gilbert is running the show.
He can blather on about how he's dissatisfied, as he did after Grant's firing, per The Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer:
Gilbert: This is the most challenging time in almost nine years we’ve owned this franchise. We are not happy, no one’s happy. #Cavs— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) February 6, 2014
"This has been a very difficult period for the franchise. We have severely underperformed against expectations." - Cavs owner Dan Gilbert— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBA) February 6, 2014
But nothing Gilbert says should ever inspire confidence that he knows what he's doing.
So, in that sense, the only way in which Grant's removal affects Gilbert and the future of the Cavaliers organization as a whole is by emphasizing an unfortunate reality: Gilbert only acknowledges failure long after it's too late.
If Gilbert really wanted to change Cleveland's future, he would have fired himself.