David Griffin reframes comments on Cavs in ultimate LeBron James power play

Never question the power LeBron James wields over the NBA.

On Thursday morning, Sports Illustrated published a profile of New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin.

In it, the former Cavaliers general manager expressed some not-so positive feelings about his time in Cleveland, touting his experience building a roster around LeBron James as “miserable” while questioning James’ will to win after the 2016 championship.

“Everything we did was so inorganic and unsustainable and frankly, not fun,” Griffin said. “I was miserable. 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.”

James’ camp reportedly upset by Griffin’s comments

By Thursday night, the comments had gained significant traction and inspired an ESPN report that James was “shocked” by Griffin’s statements. According to that same report, people from James’ camp “encouraged Griffin to clear up his stance on the record,” after Griffin told them he was taken out of context.

James, meanwhile, posted this less-than-cryptic tweet.

On Friday, Griffin made an appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump.”

As you wish, LeBron

Jorge Sedano introduced Griffin with a note that, “The Pelicans reached out to us last night because you wanted to set the record straight.”

Set the record straight he did.

In the process, James flexed on the Pelicans yet again, demonstrating that nobody in the NBA is to trifle with the King, not even a general manager on a team 2,000 miles away.

My bad

Griffin started his moment of contrition with a message directly for James, clarifying that it was his shortcomings that led to his misery, not any fault of James’.

“The fact that there was so much scrutiny in everything that we did, when I was speaking about being uncomfortable and quote 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.”

Blame the messenger

After that mea culpa, Griffin attacked SI reporter Jake Fischer for not framing the story in a manner that pleased him.

“Frankly none of this really matters other than the fact that it’s inherently wrong. The story was designed to be all about the Pelicans,” Griffin said. “ ... The writer got a great deal of information from many many people in the organization about our team and what we were trying to do.

“So I was disappointed that the story really became about me and a sensationalized version of quotes that were taken totally out of context.”

At the reported urging of LeBron James, David Griffin painted a different picture of his scrutinized comments over his time in Cleveland. (Reuters)
At the reported urging of LeBron James, David Griffin painted a different picture of his scrutinized comments over his time in Cleveland. (Reuters)

‘Unfounded fear’

After reiterating how strong his and James’ relationship is, Griffin directly addressed his comment in the SI story that James isn’t “the same animal anymore about winning,” a criticism Griffin wasn’t alone in expressing when James signed with a downtrodden Los Angeles Lakers team and focused more and more on his media projects.

“My belief at that time was there is no way anyone can be born in Akron, Ohio, deliver the first championship in 52 years to Cleveland, Ohio, and be the same human being,” Griffin said. “It's not possible — you're a person, you're a human being — and my fear at that time was that he 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 I had at the time. But the article doesn’t give the context.”

Big power play by LeBron

So there it is. Griffin said some things that irked James. James and his camp expressed displeasure in those statements while reportedly encouraging Griffin to set the record straight.

Griffin set the record straight.

It’s more than fair in this media landscape for the subject of a report to be irked by a couple of quotes from a larger piece that get reused and recycled repeatedly in social media and sports blogs.

At the same time, Griffin said the things he said.

But he likely took some consolation in actually being able to clarify his statement and his relationship with James without the filter of outside media.

But that’s not the bottom line here. The bottom line is that James wanted an executive from a competing NBA team to heed his will. Less than 24 hours later, said executive was doing just that.

Don’t come at the King.

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