David Griffin

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.

Western Notes: Dumars, Thompson, Horford, Morris, Zion

The Kings have named former Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars as a special advisor to GM Vlade Divac, according to a team press release. Dumars, who build Detroit’s 2004 championship team, stepped down from his post with the Pistons in April 2014. “Joe and I played together in the league and is a legend in our sport,” Divac said in a press release. “As an experienced and talented basketball executive, I’m excited to have him serve as a special advisor and expert resource for our incredible front office team.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Former Sixers forward Hollis Thompson will join the Kings’ summer league team, J.D. Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Thompson hasn’t appeared in an NBA regular-season game since the 2016/17 season, when he played a combined 40 games for Philadelphia and New Orleans.
  • While numerous teams and agents believe Celtics big man Al Horford will receive a four-year, $112MM offer in free agency, it won’t be coming from the Mavericks, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Horford will decline his $30.1MM player option and has broken off negotiations with Boston.
  • Veteran NBA guard Darius Morris will play for the Spurs’ summer league squad, Shaw reports in another tweet. Morris hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2014/15 season. He had stints with the Lakers, Sixers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Nets.
  • The Pelicans’ top executive, David Griffin, is trying his best to keep the pressure off top pick Zion Williamson. He said on Friday to ESPN”s Malika Andrews and other media members that Williamson doesn’t have the burden of “saving this franchise.” Griffin added that Williamson is not yet the face of the franchise. “This is Jrue Holiday‘s team,” Griffin said. “Zion is going to be learning how to win at a really high level. At some point, if there is a time that the baton gets passed in terms of who is expected to carry us to win games, it will. That is not now.”

Pelicans Notes: Griffin, Draft Picks, Markkanen, C. White

Pelicans executive David Griffin put his stamp on the franchise with Saturday’s Anthony Davis trade and now needs to prove he can build a winner without the star big man, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate. The franchise is making a transition from the Davis era to the Zion Williamson era, and its success will depend on the package of assets that New Orleans received from the Lakers.

Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart provide a nice collection of young talent, but Griffin didn’t land the proven All-Star he set out to get when he set the parameters for potential offers. Griffin opted for quantity rather than quality, choosing to gamble on three players with high upsides, along with three picks, including the No. 4 selection in this week’s draft.

Griffin likely has a lot of deals left to make. Each of the new assets has trade value that might enable him to increase his return for Davis, but whatever Griffin does, yesterday’s deal will be the pivotal step in defining his tenure in New Orleans.

There’s more on the Pelicans:

  • By accepting two picks so far in the future, the Pelicans are gambling that the Lakers won’t be among the league’s best teams once LeBron James retires, Kushner tweets. New Orleans will receive L.A.’s pick in 2021, which will become unprotected in 2022 if it doesn’t convey. The Pelicans also get an unprotected selection in 2024 and the right to exchange picks in 2023 and 2025 with no protection in either year. Those future choices could fall in the late 20s if the Lakers remain an elite team or they could provide a draft haul similar to what the Celtics got from the Nets a few years ago.
  • The Bulls might be the best option if the Pelicans decide to deal this year’s pick, suggests Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. Chicago is in the market for a point guard, and Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland should be on the board at No. 4. Vecenie speculates Lauri Markkanen might be available because of his defensive liabilities and the Bulls’ commitment to Wendell Carter as their long-term center. He adds that the Pelicans will probably spend the next few days bringing in as many top prospects as possible before making a decision.
  • If the Pelicans keep the fourth pick, they are likely to take North Carolina’s Coby White ahead of Garland, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.