If any other general manager had made so many questionable decisions with free agents and high draft choices, even in bad draft prospect years, he might have been gone long before this.
A fourth overall pick who was shooting with the wrong hand?
A first-rounder who’s incompatible with the previous first-rounder?
Another top pick whose early play made some long for the 7-footer who could spend his rookie year on injured reserve?
But in letting go of General Manager Chris Grant on Thursday, owner Dan Gilbert continued the missteps that have kept the Cavs in the league’s basement since LeBron James departed in the summer of 2010.
Gilbert said he wanted “an environmental and cultural change,” but he fired the GM rather than coach Mike Brown. Perhaps Gilbert is blaming Grant for drafting too many divas, but it is up to the coach to mold those divas into a team. Gilbert, who built the Cavs’ practice palace in Independence, has as much to do with the environment and the culture as Grant.
More than anything, Gilbert’s timing is off.
If he had lost faith in Grant’s skills as a talent evaluator and in his rebuilding plan, he should have dumped him with coach Byron Scott last April.
Then the Cavs wouldn’t have rehired Grant’s best friend and college teammate Brown, who has continued to display his offensive deficiencies and has watched his team tune him out on the value of defense.
Then the Cavs wouldn’t have drafted Anthony Bennett, who is just now showing flashes of promise.
Then the playoffs and the possibility of luring James back in the summer of 2014 might still seem possible.
Instead Cavs fans face the harsh reality of a 16-33 record, a six-game losing streak and the embarrassing loss Wednesday to the Los Angeles Lakers, who finished the game with four eligible players. That belongs on the “Only In Cleveland Top 10 list,” although Dwayne Rudd is not off the hook.
Watching his chances for James go up in smoke again might be why Gilbert called this “the most challenging time in the almost nine years we’ve owned the franchise.”
Now, with two weeks before the trade deadline, the Cavs should be starting over. They should be deciding who doesn’t fit with whom in a locker room that has no chemistry and shipping out the players causing issues. Instead, Gilbert fired the trade-master.
With the All-Star break a week away, the Cavs need to figure out how they can rid the team of its pervasive sense of entitlement. Brown needs to be convinced that drastic measures are necessary, even if it means starting the five who finished the Lakers’ game, the only ones who put forth any effort, tonight at Washington. Grant might have been the only one who could sell Brown on that, especially because it would mean benching All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.
In his second stint with the Cavs, Brown is going down the same path with Irving that he went down with James, minus the entourage. In fact, this might be worse, because James has always been a team player. While a master at marketing himself, James didn’t speak of his “brand” as Irving does, even if he was thinking about it.
Grant should be blamed for his failure to research the personalities and intangibles of his first-rounders and considering how they would mesh. If he did consider that, he should be blamed for not finding a coach who could maximize his youngsters’ talents while he taught them in no uncertain terms what is demanded of professionals. If Brown learned they were out late partying in New York with a game the next day against the Knicks, as was reported last week in the New York Daily News, those who showed in the first quarter they were not fit for action should have been yanked.
But Gilbert should no longer escape culpability for the mess the Cavs have become. The statute of limitations on Comic Sans has run out. He could have fired Grant months ago. He could have nixed the rehiring of Brown.
Instead, Gilbert had the audacity to say he likes the team’s talent and believes it can succeed with what it has, including Brown. That sounded delusional and/or like a desperate attempt to sell tickets.
Gilbert seems to foolishly believe that firing Grant will be enough to shock his team back on a path to the playoffs. But with the locker room fractured and the losses mounting, players might instead be saying Gilbert got it wrong again.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.