New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin appeared Friday on ESPN's The Jump to clarify recent statements he made about LeBron James regarding their time together with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In an interview with Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated on Thursday, Griffin seemed to suggest that winning a championship in 2016 negatively impacted James' will and determination to win moving forward: "There wasn't a lot else for him. I don't think he's the same animal anymore about winning."
During Friday's interview on The Jump, Griffin attempted to better explain what he meant:
"I failed miserably in getting everyone to the right sense of urgency following the championship. And my belief at that time was: There's no way anyone can be born in Akron, Ohio, deliver the first championship in 52 years to Cleveland, Ohio, and be the same human being. It's not possible. You're a person, you're a human being. And my fear at that time was that he wouldn't have that same animal-like desire to win. And what we've seen obviously is that he's gone to multiple Finals since, so it was an unfounded fear I had at the time. But the article doesn't give you the context that I was talking about that particular point in time."
Following Cleveland's championship in 2016, James brought the Cavaliers to two more consecutive Finals before signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
On Thursday, James seemed to respond to the comments Griffin made in the SI interview:
After the Cavs lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals, Griffin parted ways with the organization, and he didn't resurface as an NBA executive until the Pels hired him in April.
Despite the fact that he helped guide the Cavs to three straight NBA Finals appearances, Griffin said in the interview that it wasn't an enjoyable time for him: "Everything we did was so inorganic and unsustainable and, frankly, not fun. I was miserable. Literally, the moment we won the championship I knew I was gonna leave. There was no way I was gonna stay for any amount of money."
While the Cavaliers were perennial contenders during that time, there was a constant pressure to win and build around a core of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Following Griffin's departure, Irving forced his way out via a trade to the Boston Celtics.
Cleveland still reached the Finals without Kyrie, but James signing with the Lakers ended the Cavs' run of dominance in the Eastern Conference.
Now, both James and Griffin are pursuing new challenges. James is part of a Lakers team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2013 but is among the top contenders in the Western Conference after acquiring Anthony Davis from the Pelicans.
In New Orleans, Griffin has a supremely talented young roster aided by the Davis trade, which helped him land Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and a first-round pick he turned into center Jaxson Hayes and guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Griffin also selected Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick and made smart veteran acquisitions such as JJ Redick and Derrick Favors.
It can be argued that the Lakers are the present of the Western Conference, while the Pelicans are the future. If things fall perfectly, they could do battle in some hugely important games in the coming years.