David Griffin

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Davis, Griffin, Gentry

Excitement is building in New Orleans for the debut of Zion Williamson, even though a target date hasn’t been set, writes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The top pick in this year’s draft is recovering from meniscus surgery, and a return before Christmas is still considered possible. He is able to do partial, weight-bearing workouts, but hasn’t been cleared to take contact.

“He’s dying to be back out here,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s taking his rehab very, very serious. He’s chomping on the bit. We’d love to have him out there because he is a game-changer. Who wouldn’t want him out there? … It’s been tough for him only to be able to play in the preseason and not play now. He’s going to be special regardless because he is a team-first guy. And team-first guys seem to succeed in this league and have an impact on their team.”

The Pelicans are expecting Williamson to contribute right away when he does return. After a 6-12 start marked by a long string of injuries, executive vice president David Griffin said the team needs Williamson’s “energy” and “unbridled joy” for the game.

“He’s a monster,” Jrue Holiday added. “Having Zion has been really cool. He definitely surprised me professionally. Obviously, coming from college at 19, he is a little kid at heart. But the way he handles it is like an ultimate professional.”

There’s more from New Orleans, all from Spears:

  • Former Pelicans star and fellow No. 1 pick Anthony Davis met with Williamson when the Lakers traveled to New Orleans this week. Davis could have been Zion’s teammate, but didn’t back off from his trade request after the Pelicans won the draft lottery. “I told him to get healthy,” Davis said. “Obviously, they’re waiting on his return and they’re trying to hold on until he gets back.”
  • Gentry cites “a change of culture” since Griffin was hired to run the organization in April. The move was part of a front office overhaul that included adding Trajan Langdon as general manager and former WNBA star Swin Cash as vice president of basketball operations and team development. “The players know that everything is first class,” Gentry said. “Not that it hadn’t been before. But just the overall feeling and overall environment in a more positive way.”
  • One change that wasn’t made was on the bench, where Gentry was retained despite a 33-49 record last season and a 145-183 mark in his first four years in New Orleans. Griffin had previous experience with Gentry in Phoenix and is confident that he can eventually produce a winner. “Everybody says, ‘Why didn’t you start over with a new coach?’ ” Griffin said. “‘Well, I don’t know a lot of other coaches that I went to the conference finals with, with a roster similar to this.’ The fearless Alvin that coached the 2010 Suns to the conference finals is a different animal than he was able to be here. My job is to get to channel as much of that person as I can because that was a masterful job that I watched him do.”

David Griffin Discusses Zion Williamson’s Injury, Conditioning

Zion Williamson is slated to miss six-to-eight weeks with a torn meniscus in his right knee. While some have speculated that Williamson’s injury occurred because of his weight, GM David Griffin made it clear he doesn’t buy into that theory.

“The notion that this happened because Zion is in poor condition is asinine,” Griffin said of Williamson (via Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com). “He wasn’t in poor condition when he went 12 of 13 last week against Utah. That’s not what it is. He’s just a very unique body type and certainly from a physics perspective.”

Exactly when Williamson sustained the injury is unclear. He let the team know of knee discomfort in mid-October, a couple of days after the Pelicans’ preseason game against the Spurs.

The team’s medical staff is working with the No. 1 overall pick to learn more about his body, as there have been few players with Williamson’s particular type of athletic build.

“He can be 274 pounds with 8.5% body fat and he can be 280 pounds with 9% body fat,” Griffin said. “As we have gone through the process for our medical team, learning how to keep him lean and give him the core strength and stability and control he needs to handle all that torque he generates, typically that means you are going to do things to strengthen those areas.

“In this case, he gains muscle mass so fast and gains weight so fast, no one has ever dealt with anybody like him. He’s 19 and it’s going to be a learning experience for all of us.”

Williamson played in four preseason games this fall. He averaged 23.0 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 71.0% from the field.

While the team has set Williamson’s recovery timetable at six-to-eight weeks, Griffin said today that he expects the former Duke star to try to make it back sooner than that.

Pelicans Notes: Williamson, Griffin, Offseason

Pelicans players, coaches and executives alike are trying to shield phenom Zion Williamson from as much of the pressure and spotlight that comes with being the most-hyped player since LeBron James that they can, but it may be a futile endeavor, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Vardon admits it’s an admirable strategy, to try to create an environment in which Williamson matures into an adult naturally, to the degree that’s possible as a professional basketball player. But it’s hard to convince people that this is Jrue Holiday‘s team when everybody and their mother at media day only wants to hear from Zion, even if it meant waiting after the Pels purposely didn’t bring him out until later.

“He’s still 19, a very young 19,” Pelicans’ Executive VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin said. “I think Zion is finding more comfort just with himself as a man, as a person. And that’s really important to us. We don’t have expectations that we are hoisting on him with the players. It’s really about finding himself, finding comfort with his teammates, finding his role and we’re blessed. All Zion wants to do is win.”

But whatever Griffin says, the NBA didn’t “put (the Pelicans) on national TV 30 times” because of anybody but Zion, and New Orleans knows this. So try as they might, the Pelicans probably won’t be able to protect Williamson from what’s coming at him this season.

There’s more news this evening from the Big Easy:

  • As training camp gets underway, William Guillory of The Athletic writes that the Pelicans’ uncertainty entering camp might be higher than it is with any other NBA franchise, as New Orleans only returns five of 20 players from last season’s roster – Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Darius Miller, Jahlil Okafor, and Frank Jackson.
  • Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com explores how Griffin was able to make good on his promise to bring multiple, accomplished NBA veterans to New Orleans when he took over in April. One example? Griffin managed to bring in J.J. Redick, Derrick Favors, and Nicolo Melli, a trio that boasts a combined 30-plus seasons of professional experience.
  • ICYMI, Luke Adams took a look at how New Orleans was able to successfully transition from one franchise player to another in the span of a few months, among other Pelicans’ related tidbits, as part of our 2019 Offseason in Review series.

Lakers Notes: James, Davis, Dudley, Kuzma

LeBron James wants Anthony Davis to be the focal point of the Lakers offense, he told Josh Peter of USA Today and other media members during the team’s annual Media Day.

“If we’re not playing through Anthony Davis while he’s on the floor, then there’s no sense to having him on the floor,’’ James said.

Davis’ ability to draw double teams is an exciting proposition for James.

“When you’re able to attract two defenders on one guy, then you’ve got the numbers game. … It opens up for other guys on the floor, including myself,’’ he said.

We have more from the Lakers:

  • James gave a ringing endorsement to the front office headed up by Rob Pelinka and the work the group did this summer, Mark Medina of USA Today tweets. They focused on what they can do to make this franchise as competitive as they can be. They exceeded that. They did a hell of a job and I’m happy to be a Laker.”
  • James was hesitant about committing to playing for Team USA in next year’s Olympics, then said he would, Joe Vardon of The Athletic tweets“Umm, I don’t know. I would love to,” LeBron said, adding that it will depend on his health at season’s end.
  • Davis shrugged off comments made by Pelicans executive VP David Griffin that were seemingly critical of him, according to an ESPN report. Griffin was quoted earlier this week as saying, “If sex appeal is your thing and you need a big market, OK. See you later.” Davis was asked for a response on ESPN’s The Jump. “That’s fine. I don’t care,” he said. “I mean like, the past is the past, you know? I didn’t hear that.”
  • Jared Dudley is intent on making Kyle Kuzma a well-rounded player, according to Mark Trudell of the team’s website. “My guy would be Kyle Kuzma. What can I do off the court to help him get to his full potential? He’s really the key for us,” Dudley said.

Pelicans Notes: Holiday, Melli, Projections

The Pelicans will look much different this season after trading away Anthony Davis over the summer. However, the vibe in New Orleans appears to be on the upswing with executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin leading the franchise.

“I feel like the whole vibe, the whole attitude in the facility and with the staff has just been different,” Jrue Holiday said (via Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com). “It definitely feels like people are ready and excited. It’s been like that ever since Griff has come into place.”

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Holiday (same piece) said that Griffin is “putting his money where his mouth is,” with the help of team ownership, referring to the upgrades the Pelicans made to their practice facility. Holiday added that he felt like he was walking into a brand new facility when he returned from offseason workouts in Los Angeles.
  • Nicolo Melli, who signed with the Pelicans after playing in Europe for over a decade, is expected to be a highly-valued glue guy in New Orleans, as Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com relays. “A guy like Nicolo, you can look at his stat line and be like, ‘I don’t understand the intrigue from the NBA for the last three years.’ But it’s what he brings – he’s a team-first guy, a winner. He’s highly motivated and a competitor,” GM Trajan Langdon said. “Those are the kind of people we want here, to be a part of the Pelicans organization. He’s another guy who’s going to make people better, on and off the court.”
  • FiveThirtyEight’s model indicates that the new-look Pelicans could live up to the hype, as Chris Herring passes along. Herring writes that it’s not a total long shot that New Orleans finds its way into the playoffs in year one post-Davis.

David Griffin Clarifies Comments On LeBron

Pelicans executive VP David Griffin clarified on Friday his comments in a Sports Illustrated article that indicated he was miserable running the Cavaliers when LeBron James was there, according to an ESPN report.

During an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump, Griffin said he didn’t have any issues with James and that his problems in Cleveland were centered around the pressure of building a championship team.

In the SI story, Griffin was quoted as saying it was frustrating working for an organization where “LeBron is getting all the credit and none of the blame. And that’s not fun for people. They don’t like being part of that world.”

Griffin and a confidant of James spoke after the SI story was published, according to ESPN, and Griffin claimed some statements were taken out of context.

“The fact that there was so much scrutiny in everything that we did, when I was speaking about being uncomfortable and being miserable, it was my inability to deal with that media scrutiny,” Griffin said. “It wasn’t the man himself. It was everything that came with a team led by LeBron James. It had nothing to do with being miserable with LeBron. We had and have a very positive relationship.”

Another controversial part of the SI piece was that Griffin seemingly questioned the future Hall of Famer’s desire to win after the Cavaliers won the championship.

Griffin put the blame on himself during the TV interview for failing to instill a sense of urgency following the title run.

“My fear at that time was that [James] wouldn’t have that same animal-like desire to win. And what we’ve seen is he’s gone to multiple Finals since, so it was an unfounded fear,” Griffin said.

You can watch some of the Griffin interview here.

David Griffin: I Was “Miserable” During Time With Cavs

David Griffin enjoyed a successful run as the Cavaliers‘ general manager, winning a championship in 2016 and guiding the team to three consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals until his departure in 2017. However, he tells Jake Fischer of SI.com that the pressure he was under in Cleveland and his fixation on winning made him “miserable” and caused him to lose his love of the game during his time as the Cavs’ GM.

“Everything we did was so inorganic and unsustainable and, frankly, not fun. I was miserable,” Griffin said of building the Cavaliers into a contender. “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.”

Fischer’s story paints LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland and his year-to-year contracts as major factors that contributed to Griffin’s stress. The current Pelicans head of basketball operations acknowledged that James’ larger-than-life presence could contribute to what Fischer calls “combustible” conditions in the workplace.

“The reason is LeBron is getting all the credit and none of the blame. And that’s not fun for people,” Griffin said. “They don’t like being part of that world.”

Griffin also theorized that after the Cavaliers knocked off the Warriors to win the 2016 NBA Finals, James’ hunger to win championships may have waned to some extent.

“There wasn’t a lot else for him,” Griffin told Fischer. “I don’t think he’s the same animal anymore about winning.”

While Griffin’s quotes appear somewhat incendiary on the surface, it’s worth noting that James himself has said multiple times since 2016 that he feels he has nothing left to prove as a basketball player. In one interview, he referred to any future accomplishments as “icing on the cake,” and Fischer notes that many people around the league believe LeBron’s top priorities now are to eventually play in the NBA with his son and to own a franchise. That doesn’t mean that he’s no longer driven to win championships, but it provides some added context for Griffin’s comments.

Additionally, a source familiar with Griffin’s thinking tells Dave McMenamin of ESPN that the Pelicans executive had no intention of blaming James for creating an unfavorable atmosphere in Cleveland — he was instead referring to the “media machine” surrounding the four-time MVP. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter) that the joylessness Griffin felt during the Cavs’ title run was related to “the scrutiny and unforgiving pressure” of the job — not to LeBron.

Still, sources close to James told ESPN that they were “shocked” by Griffin’s characterization of the Lakers star. According to McMenamin, a person close to LeBron spoke to Griffin after the SI story was published and Griffin said in that conversation that some context was missing from his comments. Sources tell ESPN that James’ camp encouraged the Pelicans’ top executive to issue an on-the-record clarification.

Here are a few more items of note related to Griffin, the Cavs, and the Pelicans:

  • Referring to the roster-building process and the culture in Cleveland, Griffin offered the following assessment, via Fischer: “We won despite our culture to a huge degree. And I knew it. I knew what we weren’t doing. There were so many things during that period of time that I wanted to do differently. If you make everything about, ‘It’s a destination. Damn the torpedoes, I gotta get there,’ that might be the only time you get there.”
  • Pivoting to his current team, Griffin told Fischer that the Pelicans – despite being perceived as a rebuilding club – are ready to potentially be a buyer at the 2020 trade deadline if the playoffs are within sight. “People are gonna be like, ‘What the f— are they doing?'” Griffin said. “We’re trying to win basketball games!”
  • According to Fischer, some members of the Pelicans’ scouting department had Nickeil Alexander-Walker ranked as high as fourth on their boards entering the 2019 draft. New Orleans selected him with the No. 17 overall pick.

Southwest Notes: Duncan, Morey, Iguodala, Zion, McClure

While perhaps not as noteworthy as some of the more marquee free agent news we’ve seen this summer in terms of on-the-court impact, Marc Stein of The New York Times opines that the return of all-time-great Tim Duncan to the Spurs as a full-time assistant coach under legendary head coach Gregg Popovich is a gigantic story all the same.

As Stein notes, Duncan has been a frequent visitor at the Spurs’ practice facility throughout his retirement, mentoring/coaching players along the way, but this had always been done outside of the limelight, a setting in which Duncan prefers. So his abrupt return to the court for an 82-game season filled with continual travel and other headaches is a bit surprising, to say the least.

One narrative as to why Duncan accepted a position on Pop’s staff despite his disposition is simply need. Duncan reportedly knew that his old coach was struggling to fill the last open spot on his bench staff after departures by longtime Spurs’ assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina, and his loyalty dictated he offer his services.

Here are some more stories from around the Southwest Division:

  • As Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said on Friday that while Houston is not yet done adding to their 2019/20 roster, the team is much more likely to make further additions by trade rather than via free agency.
  • According to Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian, it’s not a certainty that trade offers for Grizzlies veteran swingman Andre Iguodala will improve as time goes on, and Herrington remains skeptical that Iguodala will play a meaningful role for the Grizzlies at any point.
  • Pelicans president of basketball operations David Griffin tells Jeff Duncan of The Athletic that rookie phenom Zion Williamson is still getting taller and that the team is more worried about making sure the 19-year-old is eating well and in good condition than what his playing weight will be.
  • The Grizzlies have hired Pacers player development coach David McClure as an assistant for new head coach Taylor Jenkins’ staff in Memphis, reports J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. McClure also spent two seasons in San Antonio before joining the Pacers back in 2015.

Pelicans Notes: Melli, Ball, Ingram, Redick, Miller

The Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin was able to land Euro star Nicolo Melli by selling him on the team’s system and through a connection with Melli’s agent, Griffin told Jeff Duncan of The Athletic in a Q&A session. Melli joined New Orleans on a two-year, $8MM contract.

“It’s not like anybody discovered Melli. Everybody knew Melli. What was interesting is we were able to create a situation that attracted Melli. He had other opportunities to come to the NBA. He’s a player that, because he’s an elite defensive rebounder and floor spacer — I think he’s the leading rebounder in Europe since 2015 and he shoots 42 percent from 3 — that type of player is attractive to the NBA. What I think was significant for us was our situation spoke to him to because he saw his fit within Alvin Gentry’s system, and he’s represented by Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management and Jeff Schwartz, whom I was really close to.”

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • Griffin received trade inquiries regarding the three rotation players he received from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis blockbuster but didn’t get close to moving Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart or Brandon Ingram, Griffin indicated in the same story. “There was interest but nothing that really spoke to us to any degree. … We felt really fortunate that we were able to land the players we did, and it became really evident that we were fortunate because of the interest in them that was shown by several other teams basically immediately after the deal was announced. It was fascinating to go through the experience, but we didn’t acquire them to move them, so nothing was even close.”
  • Pelicans guard J.J. Redick will not participate in Team USA’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Unlike some players on the original 20-man roster who pulled out to concentrate on the next NBA season, Redick declined to be added to the roster due to family reasons as he transitions to a new city. Redick joined the Pelicans on a two-year, $26.5MM contract.
  • Forward Darius Miller‘s contract has an early July trigger date next summer, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Miller will make $7.25MM in guaranteed money next season and is due $7MM in 2020/21 in the non-guaranteed portion of his contract. Miller was officially signed over the weekend.

Pelicans Notes: Hart, Ball, Ingram, Melli

Josh Hart spoke with EVP of basketball operations David Griffin shortly after the Anthony Davis, pleading with the executive not to trade him, as he wanted to play for the Pelicans. During a press conference today that introduced Hart, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, Griffin said that it “meant a lot” to the team to have players who were “equally committed” to the franchise.

“We’re deep with selfless winners,” Griffin said (via Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register). “We’re deep with selfless high-character guys who wanna play any role they need to.”

Rival teams have called the Pelicans about all three former Lakers, according to Griffin, but the franchise has turned down inquiries for each player. The front office feels the trio can be part of the team’s future.

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Ball said it was “tough” dealing with trade rumors last season but he learned to deal with those distractions and others while playing in Los Angeles, Will Guillory of The Athletic relays on Twitter. Ball added that he’s excited to get back to playing the style of basketball he’s accustomed to.
  • Ingram said he is “pretty close” to resuming regular basketball activities, as ESPN relays. Ingram is recovering from surgery on his right arm that was performed to address a blood clot. Ingram added that he hasn’t played basketball since March. “I’m eager to pick up a basketball,” the forward added (via Guillory’s Twitter feed).
  • Nicolo Melli, who signed with the Pelicans this offseason, underwent knee surgery this offseason, Emiliano Carchia of Sportnado passes along. Melli agreed to sign with New Orleans via the room exception.