New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin clarified comments he made about the challenges of building a title contender around LeBron James during their three seasons in Cleveland together, saying Friday that he maintains a “positive relationship” with James.
In a Sports Illustrated story published Thursday, the former Cavaliers general manager called his experience with those James-led Cavaliers teams “miserable” and questioned James’ desire to win.
On ESPN’s The Jump on Friday, Griffin said he did a poor job of framing a conversation about dealing with the “noise” surrounding those Cavaliers teams.
“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.”
Griffin also addressed his comment that James wasn’t “the same animal anymore about winning” after winning a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016. Griffin said Friday that he had failed to instill a sense of urgency in the team following the championship and that his fear over James’ declining desire to win proved “unfounded.”
“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 [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 I had at the time.”
Griffin and a person close to James spoke to each other after the SI story was published, sources told ESPN on Thursday, and Griffin expressed that some context was missing behind his comments. James’ camp encouraged Griffin to clear up his stance on the record, sources said.
Griffin said Friday that the SI story was supposed to be about the Pelicans and the lessons he learned while being in charge of the Cavaliers, saying his quotes about his experience with James in Cleveland in the story were “sensationalized” and “taken out of context.”