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GM David Griffin discusses Cavs' issues

CLEVELAND -- With his team off to a 19-14 start and dealing with a spate of recent injuries, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin addressed reporters on Sunday morning for the first time since media day back in late September. Griffin touched on a variety of issues facing his team, from coach David Blatt’s job security to his plan to bolster the roster between now and the trade deadline. Below is a partial transcription of the session.

On the passing of Stuart Scott on Sunday at the age of 49:

“Before I get into anything about our team, I’d like to give my condolences and our thoughts and prayers to the family of Stuart Scott. As a two-time cancer survivor myself and actually going through chemo at the same time Stuart was in 2011, he was a personal inspiration to me and I know he is to millions of other cancer survivors and fighters around the world. So, I think what he’s done and his courage really deserves notice and it’s something that our whole Cavs family would like to share our thoughts with his.”

On LeBron James’ injury status:

“Our medical team made the determination that he would not attend either of the next two games. He is on a protocol of rest and therapy. Wednesday he will be seen by the team again. That will be the one-week mark of his particular protocol and we will assess where we stand. I would think that it’s safe to say that the two weeks was a legitimate timeline as laid out by the medical team, but it’s not hard and fast, so if it’s a little bit less or it’s a little bit more, that’s not alarm. It’s just how things are progressing.”

On coach David Blatt:

“This narrative of our coaching situation is truly ridiculous. It is a non-story, it’s a non-narrative. Coach Blatt is our coach. He’s going to remain our coach. Do not write that as a vote of confidence. He never needed one. It was never a question. So don’t write it that way. I heard the entire audio file of LeBron James’ comments. No more than three different times, he said, ‘We are growing together every day,’ ‘The team grows together every day,’ and ‘I am happy with who we have at the helm.’ But that wasn't a sexy pull quote, so we kept looking for something else until we could pull something that sounded negative. That narrative is done. No change is being made. Period.

“What we’ve got is exactly what we’ve talked about, guys. We came in the year and I know it wasn’t a sexy story. Growth and development and the long haul is what this is about. Every member of our organization from top to bottom -- ownership, myself, the players, the coaches, LeBron himself -- signed on for the long haul. This is something we’re doing over time. And yes, we’ve had some bumps. We’ve had it look really, really bad at times. We’ve also beaten every team ahead of us in the Eastern Conference. As of three games ago, we’ve played the sixth-hardest schedule in the league in terms of winning percentage of opponents against and the toughest in the East, doing all of that against the backdrop of losing 15 games from our backup point guard, losing our starting center and now LeBron’s been out, Kevin [Love] had been out, Shawn Marion had been out. Guys, this is a really difficult recipe to get right. Everybody needs to just settle down and let it happen. But I can promise you, that’s not a narrative that has validity at all, nor will it."

On why he felt the need to speak up about Blatt:

“Truthfully, if I wasn't speaking now I wouldn't feel like something needed to be said because it’s just such a ridiculous assertion. It seemed giving life to it is what would happen by talking about it. So I didn't want to do that. At the same time, it’s just time for everybody to get on with it. We have a chance to galvanize ourselves and grow and move in a positive direction. So I just want to make sure we’re doing that in a fresh environment.”

On the Cavs looking to pursue trades:

“We’re very actively working the phones and doing everything we can to improve the team. At the same time, unfortunately, our timing doesn’t always match the timing of everybody else. So, until the trade deadline, people don’t typically have a lot of reason to do anything at a specific time. So we’re doing what we can and certainly working every angle we can. This ownership group has always been one that turns over every stone and this is no different.”

On assessing Kevin Love’s performance:

“In games when we win and he scores a lot of points I feel really good. I think he’s been fantastic. I absolutely believe Kevin is about the right stuff. I think Kevin has been making the largest sacrifice probably of anybody by being asked from going from the No. 1 option to probably the third. I think that’s very difficult. I think you’ve seen a real focus on his part on the defensive end of late. He’s taking more charges. You’re seeing a complete Kevin Love right now, I think, when he’s healthy. He’s also been banged up. And again, when you’re playing a season and people aren’t exactly right and your rotation changes, in a situation like ours where we didn’t have continuity coming in, it has a really big impact. So I think it’s had a big impact on Kevin. I think it’s had a big impact on everybody.”

On whether James’ minutes should be monitored when he returns:

“It’d be disingenuous to say I don’t watch hoping he plays fewer minutes, but the guy has already played 41,000 minutes. If he goes from 37 [minutes per game] to 34, we’re not saving his life. That’s not how it’s going to work. What we need to do is get him into a space where he can play the number of minutes that he feels good playing, but his body responds to well. We’ve got an amazing medical team. Our sports science people are fantastic. We’ve always really tapered him back in practice anyway to counteract the time and the load that he puts in in games, so, yeah, I’d like to see it go down, but that’s on me. We need to have options that enable that to happen.”

On whether he was surprised there has been so much scrutiny of the Cavs:

“No. I’m not surprised. We’re like traveling with The Beatles. So no, I’m not surprised. But I've been disappointed that the slant has been an attempt to be so negative all of the time. This is exactly what we said it was going to be. It’s a work in progress and we’re going to continue to get better every day.”

On whether James’ body language on the floor has been satisfactory:

“I think it certainly has been at times. I think there have been times where he’s been frustrated by our play and I think you see that. I’m not going to say that everybody’s been the embodiment of what you would hope they would be in their outward appearance, but I know what’s being said. I know what Kyrie said to all of you. I know what the belief structure is here. So those are not signs of that. Those are signs of, ‘I really want to win basketball games and damn it, I’m pissed off we’re not.’ Well, we all are and we’re working to get better at it. My body language isn’t great, either, if you could watch me.”

On whether the roster needs something else to be able to contend:

“Clearly, we came into the year talking about our need for rim protection before [Anderson Varejao] got injured. I think it’s very clear we have a real need for more size. Our team is versatile in that we can play multiple positions but we’re not very big, but I’d like to improve that at multiple positions. I think it’s clear that point guard depth is something we need to address. [Matthew Dellavedova] missed 15 games and during a big portion of that, we really didn’t have a backup point guard who knew our system that was available to play a lot of minutes, and that’s on me. All of that responsibility lays with me. I think relative of what we need to do to improve, certainly we can address some talent issues. But more than anything else, we need to address our fit and our size.”

On whether the Cavs’ trade exception ($5.3 million) and their disabled player exception ($4.9 million) are attractive to other teams:

“It’s a difficult thing to say, because again, the timing thing doesn’t always work out for you. I think they will become more attractive as it becomes time to actually make a move. At times like these, everybody is hoping their assets are worth more than they really are. I’m probably no different. I’m hoping that our DPE and our TPE are attractive. But we won’t really know until we get to the point where somebody is willing to act. I do think they give us incredible flexibility, regardless of how attractive they are or aren’t. It gives us the kind of flexibility to build deals in lots of creative ways.”

On whether Varejao’s injury sped up the Cavs' timeline to make a move:

“Yes. Sure. I mean, it had to have because we just were already thin there. So it’s certainly changed the level of urgency. What it can’t do is change the level of availability. So until we can address that and put something together that solves everyone’s needs, we’re just going to continue to move towards where we need to go.”

On whether he expects James to play during the Cavs’ upcoming five-game West Coast trip:

“It’s our hope that he’s ready to do that, that a part of the West Coast trip is available. I can tell you this: If it was up to him, he’d play tomorrow. The guy is a warrior. So that’s not going to be in question. What we’re trying to do is the right thing for the overall health throughout the season. Our job is to win games in June and to build toward that. And so that’s really where the focus is and Dr. [Richard] Parker and his team have done a spectacular job thus far in my opinion.”

On how hard it is to balance the short term versus the long term:

“Oh, it’s tough, sure. If you allow yourself to pay attention to any of the scrutiny, it’s even harder. I think I’ve had conversations with some of you where I’ve said I don’t read what the media writes. Well, you can’t let any of that dictate where you go. It’s noise in the system. So if you pay attention to it, it can change things for you. But otherwise it hasn’t had a real bearing on it. What we’re trying to do is what we’ve always been trying to do, and that’s find ourselves and grow together.”

On how difficult it was to convince James to take this break:

“That’s a very strong-willed warrior and he wants to play. But it wasn’t difficult. He didn’t choose to be injured. So from that standpoint, he didn’t choose to play. But again, I’m very pleased with the way our medical team has handled this and again we’ll move forward and try to grow in the right way. I’m not going to put a timeline on it because success or failure isn’t dictated by a day here or there.”