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NBA PM: Cavaliers Open to Trades

Cavs GM David Griffin says he is open to making moves, specifically for someone who can help their defense.

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At 5-4, the Cleveland Cavaliers are not where they expected to be. They’re only showing their immense potential in flashes, and primarily on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively they still have a long way to go, which is why they have been reportedly looking for a defensive stopper – Minnesota Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer specifically. On Wednesday, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin was pretty candid about how open for business and aggressive he is being on the trade market right now.

“No one is untouchable and you’re never done building a team, so we’re always paying attention to what opportunities are out there,” Griffin said to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “My tendency is always trying to do what we can to improve the roster. But I’m not looking to create one so much as paying attention to what I’m hearing.

“Fortunately we’re blessed to have a lot of talent, but we’re not blessed with a great depth of defensive talent. We need to improve in that area. That’s probably an area where we may need to act at some point to improve the roster.

“We try to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s going on. I’d be remiss if I wasn’t paying attention. But at the same time, we’re not trying to manufacture opportunities. We’re going to be linked to basically every good player in the league for one reason or another. We’re sort of a media story right now. I wouldn’t put a lot of credence in anything happening now.”

If LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love aren’t untouchable, they’re as close to it as you can get without being untouchable by Griffin’s definition. To a lesser extent, the same can be said about Anderson Varejao, who was recently extended. After that, everyone is just about fair game if other teams around the league have an asset the Cavaliers covet. After Griffin made his comments about nobody being untouchable and needing to improve defensively, James talked about how difficult of a challenge leading all these young guys who may have gotten used to losing is.

“This is more challenging than me trying to win my first championship,” James said to Chris Broussard of ESPN. “Because that was a personal goal of mine. Doing this was never a goal until I decided to come back to Cleveland.

“I’ve taken on the burden of leading young guys, getting them to understand what it takes to win. And it takes more than just basketball. It’s about being a professional, not having a sense of entitlement, being grateful that you’re part of this league. Those things have a lot to do with winning.

“It’s going to take a while. When you’re losing, you pick up a lot of bad habits. When you walk into the building every night and don’t expect to win, that wears on you, and it takes a while to break that.

“We have to work at it every single day. We have to do the stuff, the drills, we don’t want to do. But at this point, I’m not too worried about it. It’s too early right now to be too worried about it.”

For James, this has to bring back a lot of memories to the start of his tenure with the Miami HEAT. At that time, James was a villain whose only way to win back the public was by winning a championship. The masses enjoyed watching him fail, especially after talking about all the championships he was going to win before even playing his first game in Miami. Eventually, though, he won them all back by playing at a MVP level night in and night out and leading the HEAT to four consecutive finals and back-to-back championships.

Despite all the criticism and struggles the team experienced, though, James had more job security than any player in the league. He knew he was never going anywhere, as he does now. However, for the guys coaching him, things are a lot less certain. When the HEAT struggled, James received a lot of the hate, but it was head coach Erik Spoelstra who came under fire and looked to be coaching for his job at one point. Things haven’t gotten that bad for David Blatt yet in Cleveland, but if the Cavaliers continue to struggle, he’s going to be the one on the chopping block, not James, Irving or Love. They say it’s a player’s league, but it’s really a stars league and the Cavaliers will cycle through a dozen coaches before they break up a big three as talented as the one they have right now. For now, though, Blatt has the full confidence of management.

“I think David has done a tremendous job,” Griffin said. “I think his task is very large. I feel bad in a lot of ways because people have a tendency to want everything to happen right now and when it doesn’t, it has to be someone’s fault when in reality, this adversity is very organic and good for us. He’s renowned for his ability to innovate and make adjustments. I’m glad he’s our partner in this. We have a lot of talent and we’ve got really high-character kids, but winning is a frequency and we haven’t tuned into that yet.”

The Cavaliers face off tonight against a Spurs team that knows nothing other than winning, although they too haven’t gotten off to the greatest of starts this year. Regardless of the outcome, James will likely point to a lot of the things the Spurs do well as an example his team needs to follow. They epitomize unselfishness, being focused on the ultimate goal and making individual sacrifices for the betterment of the team. Those on the Cavaliers who can’t buy into those same concepts will likely find themselves playing for someone else. A whole slew of players become eligible to be traded on December 15, giving the guys outside of the big three under a month to buy in or be shipped out.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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