After failing to extend yet another general manager, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who is worth an estimated $6 billion and ranks among the world’s 250 richest people, according to Forbes Magazine, reportedly offered his next perspective head of basketball operations half the market price.
The Cavs targeted former Detroit Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups as outgoing GM David Griffin’s replacement, offered him a $1.5 million salary, before upping it to $2 million — still well below the market value of $4 million for a first-time president of basketball ops — according to ESPN.com.
Billups withdrew from consideration for the position on Monday, telling ESPN, for whom he serves as an analyst, “the timing just isn’t right to delve into that position in Cleveland.” Considering the Cavs employ LeBron James, were coming off a third straight trip to the NBA Finals and remain favorites to win the Eastern Conference again, there are seemingly few more attractive front office jobs in the NBA.
Griffin parted ways with the Cavs after a little more than three years as GM. During that time, James returned to Cleveland, and Griffin built a roster around the superstar that won the 2016 title against a 73-win Golden State Warriors juggernaut. James expressed his disappointment in Griffin’s departure.
Gilbert assumed majority ownership of the Cavs in 2005. Since then, he let GMs Danny Ferry, Chris Grant and Griffin walk after their first contracts with the franchise. Griffin reportedly made less than $2 million annually in Cleveland, despite manning the helm of the East’s most successful team each year.
Meanwhile, the Cavs own the league’s second-highest payroll at $135 million — well above the luxury tax line. The team has shown a willingness to surround James with high-priced talent, but the $40 million owed Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert this year and next has made the roster rather inflexible. James is an influential client of Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents Thompson and Smith, and LeBron applied pressure on the organization to sign Thompson and Smith.
And there’s the rub. There’s been an ongoing joke around NBA circles about LeBron serving as player, coach and general manager of the Cavs. And while he publicly announced his unhappiness with Griffin’s departure, James reportedly stopped actively recruiting players in free agency, as he’d done in years past, all amid speculation he could head to Los Angeles or elsewhere as a free agent in 2018.
So, while the salary may have played a role in Billups’ decision to walk away from the Cavaliers job offer, being saddled with a roster in decline — and potentially serving as scapegoat if LeBron leaves — may not have been all that attractive, either. It makes you wonder if others will view the job similarly.
“My desire is to be in the front office at some point,” Billups told The Undefeated upon turning down the offer this week. “I want the opportunity to build something special and to enjoy building it. That is something that would be very exciting to do, to build something desirable and sustainable.”
The Cavs, it would seem, aren’t desirable or sustainable, which is remarkable, all things considered.
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