On Thursday morning, the calendar officially shifted to August, so maybe it was fitting that it was also the day we got our first truly dumb LeBron James news cycle because there was nothing else to talk about, just like seemingly every August.
Well, actually, I guess the first dumb one was the criticism of James for being an excited AAU dad from people who have apparently never been to an AAU game, but on Thursday, we got our first one fueled by actual NBA people.
New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin spoke to Sports Illustrated for a lengthy profile on the organization, but the quotes from the feature that got the most attention were some that made it seem as though Griffin was implying James was miserable to work with and no longer committed to winning.
James was apparently not thrilled by the portrayal, and his camp asked Griffin to clarify what he actually meant. To do so, Griffin went on ESPN’s “The Jump,” and first addressed the piece as a whole, and why he felt like some of the stuff was out of context (emphasis mine):
“First of all, the fact that I’m even needing to do this at all, or felt compelled to to do this, really speaks to the original point I was trying to make in the piece, and obviously I did it very poorly: The whole backdrop of that conversation was about the noise around that Cavaliers team, and the media portrayal of all of it. The fact that there was so much scrutiny on everything that we did, I was speaking about being uncomfortable, or being ‘miserable.’ It was my inability to deal with that media scrutiny, 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, so that was one issue. The other thing that bothered me the most, and frankly none of this really matters other than the fact that it was all inherently wrong, is that the story was supposed to be about the Pelicans. About how our past, and everything that we had learned from our failings, we were going to apply to how we want to build this Pelicans family. And the writer got a great deal of information from 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.
“Quite frankly, none of the information was new information, I’ve said this many times in media, while working in media for the last two years prior to coming back. I was just disappointed about the way everything got presented.”
Griffin was then asked about his relationship with James, and he said that it’s good, and reiterated that he dealt with the pressure of building a James-centric contender poorly, but didn’t blame James or harbor any ill will towards him:
”I think the thing that’s fascinating is if you look at the story itself and you actually read it in its entirety, the part about the noise around building a star-laden team is alluded to in a very cursory way toward the end, but the entire backdrop of the conversation was about that, and how poorly I dealt with that. So I would say that my relationship with LeBron and Rich was very strong, and remains very strong. As recently as a weak ago, LeBron tweeted something about my wife and a charity event she was working with. I would say absolutely we have a very strong relationship and enjoyed working together.”
One of the quotes that received the most attention was Griffin saying that after the Cavaliers won a title in 2016, “there wasn’t a lot else for” James to do, adding “I don’t think he’s the same animal anymore about winning.”
On “The Jump,” Griffin said that those quotes were about “unfounded” concerns he had at the time after they won, and were not how he felt now:
”Again, this was a conversation that started around our failings previously, and things we were going to learn from them and apply those lessons moving forward in how we build the Pelicans, and one of those things I took ownership of while talking about this... is that I failed miserably in getting everyone to the right sense of urgency following the championship.
“My belief at that time was there’s 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. It’s not possible. You’re a person, you’re a human being. And my fear at the time was that he wouldn’t have the same, animal-like desire to win. And what we’ve seen obviously is that he’s went to multiple NBA Finals since, it was an unfounded fear I had at the time, but the article doesn’t give you the context of that I was talking about that particular point in time.
“And ironically LeBron himself has addressed this publicly to that point in time, and said he doesn’t have anything left to prove, and things similar to that. So again, this wasn’t new information, it was just presented in such a way that made it sound like I’m currently saying that, and that is not at all what took place.”
One of the last things Griffin said regarding James before moving on to talk about the Pelicans was also interesting, and he again took the blame for even choosing to talk about James in Sports Illustrated when he knows the type of scrutiny any comments about arguably the greatest player of all time can come with.
“I’ve dealt with it just like other people have dealt with it, and frankly if I had dealt with it as well as Sam Presti, frankly I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
Griffin is presumably referring to how Presti dealt with Kevin Durant leaving, or Paul George demanding out, but I guess the main point of all this is that he did genuinely seem annoyed, and felt like his comments weren’t presented or received as he meant them. Kudos to Griffin for wanting to make things right, and clarifying that he isn’t going to be one of the many people randomly piling on James just to have something to talk about in August this year.