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NBA AM: Everyone Waiting On David Griffin?

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Everyone Waiting On Griffin?

Both the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks have open front office leadership jobs, and it does not look like either will fill them quickly.

The topic of both openings was something insiders at the annual NBA Draft Combine sort of snickered at when asked, because the process seems so transparent that few believe there will be a lot of searching.

The prevailing thought from several was that current Cavaliers general manager David Griffin would have his choice of jobs in Atlanta or Orlando and that once that decision was made, the teams losing out would move on to their backup candidate.

So here is the latest on each:

Orlando Magic

The Magic seem to be in a holding pattern, although several league sources say they have talked to a few candidates already and are waiting to meet with Griffin as soon as they are allowed.

The belief in NBA circles is that Griffin is seeking a compensation package that would put in him the top 10 percent of NBA executives. That kind of number seems too rich for the Cavaliers and it’s pushed the situation to a place where it’s likely Griffin leaves the Cavaliers for one of the open jobs.

The problem with the situation is it seems the Cavs will not grant permission for Griffin to speak with either the Magic or the Hawks until their season is over, which is what’s dragging the process out.

One league source cautioned that it’s not a given that either team hires Griffin, but that he is at the top of both teams’ list to at least speak with before they make their decision.

The Magic did reach out of former Indiana president Larry Bird in hopes of luring him to Central Florida. Bird owns a home in Naples and was said to have considered the situation. Sources close to the situation said Bird was reluctant to jump into another role with another team citing Bird’s relentless loyalty to the Simon family and the Pacers.

Bird apparently wants a break from the daily grind of the NBA. While both the Pacers and the Magic seemed open to Bird defining his own day-to-day schedule, sources said Bird only does things one way, and he was unwilling to commit at this point, opting to stay on with the Pacers as an advisor and take what was called “a much-needed break.”

While the Magic seem to have Griffin as next on their list, there was also a lot of talk that current Bucks general manager John Hammonds could be the second option should Griffin pass or not be the guy after interviews.

Hammonds is currently entering the final year of his deal in Milwaukee. He hired Justin Zanik away from the Jazz with the promise that he’d eventually replace Hammonds in 2018.

Sources close to Hammonds said that he’s not ready to retire and there was some talk that given the Bucks’ success, they may want to hang onto Hammonds a bit longer than planned when the Bucks did his contract extension.

As the Magic wait out the process with Griffin and Hammonds, there is a scenario in which the team could get neither guy.

The Magic did retain assistant general manager Matt Lloyd, who ran the combine process for the Magic and is overseeing draft prospect workouts for the Magic on an interim basis.

It’s possible that the Magic hang on to Lloyd in several scenarios, especially if they miss on proven “named” guys.

The Magic are believed to have reached out to former Rockets coach Kevin McHale and to former Pacers and Bucks executive David Morway, who was at the combine in Chicago.

Atlanta Hawks

Like the Magic, the Hawks are believed to be holding the process while they wait to get permission to speak with Griffin. Like the Magic, the Hawks seem willing to meet a hefty price tag to get the right leader at the top of the franchise, after pivoting away from the president-coach dynamic under Mike Budenholzer.

As one long-time league insider pointed out, NBA teams seem to be learning that coaches tend to think in the short term of what they need to win right now, and usually are not forward thinking in their process. The front office job requires forward planning, which is a very different skill set and perspective.

Sources say while the Hawks did reorganize some job responsibilities in their front office, they did not cut people’s compensation, so this was not a cost-saving move.

According to sources at the Combine, the Hawks seem to have locked in on two candidates; Griffin and former Pistons executive Joe Dumars. There were reports that Thunder executive Troy Weaver was a candidate but was deemed unlikely according to sources at the Combine.

While Dumars has his critics, he does have a strong background and track record in the NBA and does have close ties to Hawks minority owner Grant Hill, who is playing an increased role in the direction of the Hawks along with majority owner Tony Ressler.

It seems the Hawks will make their final decision after they get a chance to meet with Griffin.

Cleveland Cavaliers

While Griffin is currently the candidate both the Hawks and the Magic seem to be waiting to talk with, the Cavs still can win the day with him.

Sources familiar with the situation say that Griffin and the Cavaliers had agreed to table his deal until the season is over. This was after initial extension talks did not produce a deal. Those same sources said it’s possible the Cavs and Griffin reach a new deal, especially with so many teams seemingly open to poaching him away and the Cavs looking at a possible repeat in the NBA Finals.

However, Griffin will be a free agent at season end and could opt to walk away, especially for the right opportunity.

If the Cavs lose Griffin, it becomes interesting in terms of where they would turn. The Cavs do not have an in-house candidate that anyone at the combine would endorse as a likely successor, given the complexities of the Cleveland job.

While many joke that Cavs forward LeBron James runs the team, he is not the guy managing the luxury tax, the draft or trades. The Cavs have to basically rebuild their bench every offseason because of their salary cap situation, so the Cavs know they need a proven and creative operator if they do lose Griffin to another team.

The top names in the assistant GM world continue to be Golden State’s Travis Schlenk, Miami’s Adam Simon, and the Thunder’s Troy Weaver.

However, if the Cavs job does come open, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have a wider field to choose from.

The prevailing belief last week in Chicago is that none of the open jobs will get decided until those teams get a chance to formally speak with Griffin, thus, making it likely both situations linger until mid-to-late June when the Cavs season finally ends. It also explains why both teams opted to hang on to the guys currently running their draft process until a decision and a hire is finally made.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.