The Cavaliers made a really surprising move on Monday night, and unfortunately for Cleveland fans, it didn’t have anything to do with the Jimmy Butler trade rumors that were swirling around earlier in the day.
Just hours after those Butler rumors started gaining some traction online, the Cavaliers and their general manager David Griffin announced that they had decided to part ways. Griffin—who had been with the team for three years and helped put together the roster that won a title just one year ago—had been seeking a contract extension from the Cavaliers for the last few months. But according to an ESPN.com report, Griffin and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension in recent weeks. And with Griffin’s current contract set to expire at the end of June, the two sides broke off negotiations recently and decided it would be best to go their separate ways rather than continue to work together moving forward.
Shortly after reports about the split started to circulate, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin released a statement that Griffin put out about the situation. In it, Griffin thanked the Cavaliers organization and briefly touched on why he and Gilbert weren’t able to agree on a new contract:
"I am extremely excited for my next challenge in the NBA," Griffin said, "however Dan and I know now that [the Cavaliers] are a team built largely on the concept of fit and are now at the point where the fit is not right for us to continue with one another."
Gilbert also released a statement and thanked Griffin for everything he did during his time in Cleveland:
"On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Griff for his leadership and many contributions during his time here, including most recently, his role in the franchise’s first NBA Championship," Gilbert said.
In his statement, Gilbert added that there would be "no announcement at this time related to new leadership of the Cavaliers basketball operations group." But ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that the Cavaliers might be interested in hiring former NBA star Chauncey Billups to play an important role in their front office. They are reportedly going to meet with him on Tuesday:
Billups is very close with Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, so he could end up being a great addition to the team. But it sounds like there are some people within the Cavaliers organization who were not happy with the way the team handled Griffin’s departure.
LeBron James in particular seemed like he was displeased with the idea of the Cavaliers cutting ties with Griffin. Back in April, he told ESPN that he wanted to see Cleveland give Griffin a new deal, and shortly after the Cavaliers announced that he wouldn’t be back on Monday night, LeBron appeared to subtweet Gilbert in a thank-you tweet he sent out to Griffin:
Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck also reported that LeBron was "disappointed" and "concerned" over the situation. Beck pointed out that LeBron and Griffin had a great working relationship over the course of the last three years:
LeBron wasn’t the only "concerned" one in Cleveland, either. There were a lot of NBA fans who enjoyed seeing LeBron subtweet Gilbert:
But Cavaliers fans are worried about what it could mean for LeBron’s future with the team. There are already rumors out there about how he could leave the team next year to play for one of the two teams located in Los Angeles. And after he sent out his subtweet, there were even more fans speculating about how Griffin leaving could impact LeBron’s decision to stay in Cleveland next summer:
And just a reminder: All of this comes less than two weeks after LeBron addressed the infamous Comic Sans letter Gilbert wrote after he left Cleveland back in 2010. More than a few people have alluded to that letter over the last 12 hours:
Could this really be the beginning of the end for LeBron’s second tenure in Cleveland? That remains to be see. But this summer just got a lot more interesting for the Cavaliers and their fans.