The NBA Draft may be complete, but Chris Grant’s job is just getting started

Chris Grant Cavaliers RookiesAs Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant was fielding questions following the formalized portion of the annual rookie introductory press conference, he joked that the media horde which surrounded him—essentially forming a half circle which pinned him to the stage from which he just stepped down—could ask him anything for that fatigue would allow the answers to spill out. Laughs were had as members of the team’s communications staff  looked on simply to see what the 6-foot-10-inch executive would leak next.

Preempting any press release, Grant discussed the coaching staff that was now unofficially official1. He discussed the debates which took place in the Cavaliers’ “war room” the night before, categorizing them as “fun yet animated,” putting it all out on the table and digging deep into any issues which may have been had by specific members of the front office2. He discussed the fact that there has been a complete absence of communication with potential free agent Marreese Speights. He discussed the fact that the Cavs’ Summer League roster has been finalized, though he would not say exactly who has made the cut3.

The fatigue is easy to understand. As the NBA Draft neared, rumors of the Cavaliers burning up the phone lines ran rampant. Grant’s ownership of the No. 1 pick made him a popular man amongst rival general managers. Trade scenarios involving picks, players and posturing were bantered about for weeks; dozens of discussions undoubtedly went unreported. Grant won’t complain about his lack of sleep as he is forever grateful to have one of 30 NBA general manager jobs in the country, but his body language states that countless hours of work goes on behind the scenes—plane rides, interviews, background checks, video analysis are all in a day’s work.

As the respective highlight reels of his newly added rookies rolled on loop behind him, every shot made, every dunk more thunderous than the last, the responses continued to pour out of the normally tight-lipped general manager. He caught himself a few times, some out of respect for third parties, others due to the typical dissemination structure that comes with such news items. But as the questions continued on, each more detailed than the last, one thing became more evident than ever:  As Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and a collective fan base yearns for the NBA postseason, and the NBA Draft is in the rear view mirror, Grant’s job is nowhere near being done. While he may have had a decent night’s sleep following the completion of Thursday’s festivities, and last season’s NBA Finals ended just a week earlier, there is no rest for the weary as the league’s free agency process awaits. Qualifying offers have to be made by Saturday night at midnight in the event that the team wants to ensure that their restricted free agents are in fact restricted. Shooting guard Wayne Ellington is due an offer of $3.1 million; Omri Casspi would require $3.3 million.

By all indications, Ellington will be back with the Cavaliers while Casspi may get to test the waters. CJ Miles has a $2 million team option which has been rumored to not exactly be a sure thing. Speights has a player option which he is expected to decline. Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, Luke Walton, and Shaun Livingston are unrestricted free agents. Regardless, free agency negotiations will kick off just 24 hours later and Grant fully expects to be active in both free agency and any potential trades leading up to the beginning of the 2013-14 season. There are still areas to address, holes to fill, and depth to be had—”I’ll have to make sure my cell phone is working,” said the GM. If anything, it could probably use some rest, just like it’s owner.

Additional news & notes:

– Both Anthony Bennett and Carrick Felix came off incredibly well in their first press conference. You never quite know what to expect given the preceding night celebrations and any inherent travel. Both players answered their questions with care, providing well-thought, oftentimes detailed replies. This all should come as no surpirse as Chris Grant holds character in high regard when selecting players.

– For a variety of reasons, Bennett only started playing basketball roughly six years ago. The amentities near his home were not the best as he grew up, so the opportunity did not present itself until just before high school. He also had very little interest in the game until he started to grow—”Everyone said, `You should probably play basketball.’ So I said, `All right. I’ll give it a shot.’ Look where it got me now.”

– The explosive Bennett, once he began playing, began keeping a list of the individuals who fell victim to being dunked on. However, as the list grew with each additional game, Bennett decided that it was enough once he got to 100. It took just one-and-a-half years.

– There was a substantial number of Canadian media in Cleveland on Friday, ushering in the first Canadian to be selected first-overall into the NBA. While they are not good friends, Bennett says that he will lean on teammate Tristan Thompson (also from Brampton, Ontario) as he gets acclimated at the next level. Coach Mike Brown stated that the two players will compete for the starting spot, but all indication lean toward Bennett coming off of the bench.

– The Cavaliers remain borderline giddy that shooting guard Sergey Karasev fell to them at No. 19. All indications stated that he would be gone by the 14th selection, leading to rumors of a trade up. The chips undoubtedly fell the team’s way as they landed a player who they felt was in the top-15 of this class with the 19th-overall pick. While he was not in attendance, several instances of his smooth, left-handed shot played on the 40-inch video screens which served as bookends for the stage.

– Felix came off as an extremely impressive individual. Spending one-on-one time with various members of the media, the swingman displayed the perfect marriage of excitement and anxiousness as he “cannot wait” to learn defense under Mike Brown. Possessing just three percent body fat, he is extremely lean and incredibly athletic. One of the few NBA players with a Masters Degree, Carrick hinted that he was aware of the Cavaliers’ interest heading into the second round. Priding himself on the defensive end, it appears that Felix will have a spot on the Cavaliers roster for 2013-14.

– While the day was undoubtedly to celebrate the addition of new players, the afternoon was owned by Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown who, when asked about the potential for defensive weaknesses on his current roster, said “We had Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall yet were one of the best defensive teams in the league.” The line brought the house down as every seat on the practice court was relegated to laughter. It goes to show just how confident Brown is in being able to instill his philosophies on a team that finished dead last in opposing field goal percentage a year earlier. “These guys will figure out how to get on the floor,” he continued. “If they can’t figure out they’ll have to play defense, they’ll be doing what they’re doing now [sitting].”

(Photo: Joshua Gunter, The Plain Dealer)

  1. It’s quite the Supergroup of assistants as the team will add long-time coach and executive Bernie Bickerstaff; former Bucks head coach Jim Boylan; the highly-praised former offensive coordinator of the Phoenix Suns, Igor Kokoskov; and up-and-coming Spurs assistant coach Bret Brielmaier. Mike Brown will obviously oversee operations, retaining Jamahl Mosley from the staff once run by Byron Scott. Mosley, as you all know, is largely credited with the jump seen between Tristan Thompson’s first two seasons. Chris Grant referred to this as an “investment” in his young team. []
  2. There was certainly not a consenus on who was to be selected at No. 1, but Bennett—in the discussion out of the gate—won the team over with his interview when visiting Independence earlier this month. []
  3. It’s worth noting that undrafted free agent Kenny Kadji, the 6-10 power forward from Miami, is rumored to be a part. Alex Jensen, last year’s head coach, has moved on to a job with the Utah Jazz, but Grant let this one slip too. []
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    No rest for a team that has been bad for three years and counting. That’s how it should be though. Time will tell if Grant’s latest draft will bring more “W”s but it’s clear the hordes are sharpening their pitchforks in case they don’t!!!

  • Lunch

    Interesting. I thought most of the players, that Grant drafted, would be more mindful on the defensive end. Instead it looks like Grant is putting everything on the line on Mike Brown to turn these young bloods, into a defensive powerhouse.

    To Chris Grant: /salute

  • Sam

    Picking Bennett shows the Cavs are trying to compete now. He clearly has the most developed, NBA body to fill a need right away. Remember, two of these teams will have to make the playoffs: Celtics, Bucks, Raptors, Sixers, Pistons, Wizards, Cavs, Bobcats, Magic. At this point, the Cavs could easily be in the top 3 of that group.

  • Yup

    Well, the Celtics and Sixers just gutted their teams, basically. The Bobcats and Magic will be terrible again. Seems to me we’re almost a lock in the weak East…almost…

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I like what Orlando is doing they should be improved greatly.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    If I was an Orlando fan, I’d like what they are doing. As a Cavs fan, they scare me a bit, LOL.

    Still, I think this season, the Cavs have a good shot at the playoffs in the East.

    Miami, New York, Indiana, Brooklyn and Chicago are basically still locks for the playoffs. I think that the Wizards, Orlando, Detroit and maybe Toronoto compete for those final 3 spots. I like our odds.