The purge has begun.
Evidently, the embarrassing loss to the injury-depleted Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday was the last straw.
Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert fired General Manager Chris Grant on Thursday after watching the 2013-14 season implode. The story was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
David Griffin, the Cavs' vice president of basketball operations, will take over the GM position for the rest of the season.
“This has been a very difficult period for the franchise,” Gilbert said in a prepared statement. “We have severely underperformed against expectations. Just as this is completely unacceptable to our loyal and passionate fan base, season-ticket holders and corporate partners, it is also just as unacceptable to our ownership group.
“I can assure everyone who supports and cares about the Cleveland Cavaliers that we will continue to turn over every stone and explore every possible opportunity for improvement to shift the momentum of our franchise in the right direction. There is no one in our entire organization who is satisfied with our performance, and to say that we are disappointed is an understatement. We all know the great potential of our young talent, seasoned veterans, as well as our recent All-Star addition. We believe a change in leadership was necessary to establish the best possible culture and environment for our entire team to flourish.”
So much was expected from this season's team that Gilbert issued a playoff-or-bust mandate at the draft lottery last spring. After their sixth consecutive loss on Wednesday, the Cavs dropped to 16-33.
Grant was hired in 2010 after Danny Ferry left the organization in the wake of LeBron James' departure in free agency. He had previously been the Cavs' assistant GM.
Grant's plan since James left was to acquire as many high draft picks as possible, as well as to horde salary-cap space to acquire young talent. After getting those high picks, the players they drafted haven't panned out.
They earned two No. 1 overall selections in the previous three NBA drafts. They drafted Kyrie Irving in 2011, and he's evolved into a two-time All-Star. Grant didn't experience that measure of success with his 2013 pick, Anthony Bennett. Some have rated him the league's worst player, even though he's on a bit of a hot streak.
Grant's other two high draft choices — power forward Tristan Thompson (No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft) and guard Dion Waiters (No. 4 in 2012) — have been questioned around the league.
His free-agent signings last summer — center Andrew Bynum, forward Earl Clark and guard Jarrett Jack — have also blown up in his face. Bynum was suspended and finally traded to the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 7. Jack has been average at best, and Clark has been buried on the bench for most of the season.
It has all added up to a dysfunctional team that doesn't play hard on many nights. Coach Mike Brown has to take some of the blame, too. He might have survived the purge because he was hand-picked by Gilbert, who wanted to embrace Brown's defensive-first philosophy. However, this team has been terrible defensively, and it has contributed to the Cavs losing eight of its last nine games.
Brown also signed a five-year, $20 million contract last summer.
Gilbert had delivered a mandate of making the playoffs this season, something that doesn't appear will happen. They are 5½ games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Grant orchestrated the Luol Deng trade with Chicago on Jan. 7. However, that has done nothing to change the Cavs' losing culture. They are 4-10 since that trade.
“My entire focus the past eight years has been on trying to build a team that can contend and win and provide Cleveland fans the success that they deserve,” Grant said. “I have a tremendous appreciation for the players that are here and the coaches that I have worked with, as well as our front office. I thank them for all of their dedication and commitment to the Cavaliers.”
Gilbert promises to be proactive in getting the franchise headed in the right direction.
“There is no move, nor any amount of capital investment, we will not make if we believe it will improve our chances of competing and winning in this league for both the short and long term,” he said. “The fans of this great city have invested too much time, money and effort for the kind of product we have recently delivered to them. This must change.”
Griffin joined the team as vice president of basketball operations in September 2010. Prior to joining the Cavs, he spent 17 seasons with the Phoenix Suns, the last three as the club's senior vice president of basketball operations after being named to the position in June 2007.