Former Cavs GM Explains Why LeBron-Kyrie Dynamic Didn’t Work

If you love the NBA like I love the NBA, you were thrilled when you saw former Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin made an appearance on Bill Simmons' podcast. Simmons is a solid interviewer and basketball savant, and Griffin is one of the most engaging and forthcoming executives in hoops—he's a consistently a great guest when he makes media appearances.

This one was no exception. The podcast features discussion about Griffin's time in Cleveland, the current playoff matchups, LeBron James' brilliance and interpersonal abilities, the future of the league, and more. Listen to the full episode below.

One of the most interesting pieces of the interview came when Griffin broke down the dynamics of the relationship between LeBron and Kyrie Irving. Last summer, the Cavs traded Kyrie to the Celtics about one month after parting ways with Griffin.

Griffin explained how Kyrie was primed to inherit the Cavs—to be the star—when LeBron decided he was “coming home.” Of course, you don't say no to the best player in a generation, but it also created some weird dynamics with Kyrie.

“Somebody has to be Pippen and somebody has to be Jordan, and I think that's true,” Griffin said. “But Scottie Pippen got to the league because he was a freakishly gifted defensive player. Everything he had that got him to the league helped him grow and evolve to the point he was as good as he was. But it wasn't like the situation in Chicago precluded him from showing those things. Michael needed everything that Scottie was, so they fit together.”

As Griffin explained, the situation in Cleveland was different.

I think the fit of LeBron and Kyrie was difficult because Kyrie was so gifted offensively and had been carrying the load offensively for a bad team. Hadn't been raised to understand how to lead and help you win necessarily. Hadn't been given that opportunity yet and just when we were going to be good LeBron shows up and it's his team. So he never got the chance to take the natural progression in his career to carry the load and see how good he could be. And he really wanted that. He'd been doing it on a bad team. He wanted the chance to do it on a good team. It wasn't about being the man—it's about, 'How good can I be? What am I capable of? LeBron can score, he doesn't need me to score. LeBron can make all the passes, he doesn't need me to do that. I'm not a better defender than he is.' So I think you get to the point where the fit and the need LeBron had for Kyrie wasn't going to allow him to become Scottie because he didn't need Kyrie to fill in the gaps.

Simmons said he still wouldn't have traded Kyrie—at least not until six months later at the trade deadline—just because the former Duke Blue Devil is so gifted.

At another point of the pod, Griffin told an amazing story about LeBron's genius basketball mind.

“There's no play you'll run against him he can't name… I was also in the gym when I watched him on the floor against Toronto tell Patrick Patterson where he was supposed to go on the play they had called out of timeout late in the fourth quarter,” Griffin recalled. “He was like, No Pat, you're supposed to stand over there and set a pin down for DeMar [DeRozan] over here.'”

The Cavs and Celtics will begin their Eastern Conference Finals series Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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