Cavaliers watch NBA draft as Billups watch continues
CLEVELAND (AP) — No pick. No picker.
Unable to pull off a trade or move into the first round of the NBA draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t add any significant player Thursday or fill a major hole in their front office.
A stumbling start to the offseason staggers on.
Owner Dan Gilbert’s search to replace departed general manager David Griffin remains unresolved as talks with former NBA star Chauncey Billups have not progressed to a job offer. Two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Thursday that Gilbert has not yet extended a contract proposal to Billups to head the team’s front office.
Gilbert met on consecutive days earlier this week with Billups, who aspires to be an NBA executive and is at the top of Cleveland’s wish list. But the discussions have not advanced to a job proposal, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
Billups, a five-time All-Star player with an impeccable reputation around the league, lacks front-office experience. But Gilbert knows him well and could be ready to put him in charge of retooling a roster that was exposed as getting old and not nearly deep enough in the Finals against Golden State.
While the Billups situation remained in flux, Cleveland’s GM-less front office led by assistant GM Koby Altman, worked the phones trying to make a draft-day trade. Nothing materialized, but not for any lack of effort and the Cavs, who have dealt numerous picks in recent years to build around LeBron James, will now focus on stabilizing their front office before free agency opens next month.
As Gilbert looks to replace Griffin, the 40-year-old Billups would seem to be a perfect fit.
On the other hand, Cleveland might not be ideal for Billups.
The Finals MVP in 2004 when Detroit upset a Los Angeles Lakers “Super Team” with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, Billups has championship pedigree. Billups was one of the leaders on Pistons teams that played in six consecutive conference finals, so he understands the necessary commitment to stay among the league’s elite teams.
Billups also has a long-term relationship with Gilbert from his days in Detroit and he’s close friends with Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, another journeyman guard who has found success in the next chapter of his basketball life.
Billups lacks front office experience, but Gilbert would likely allow him to bring in someone to help his transition.
For Billups, any decision to join the Cavs may be more complicated.
The Cavs are loaded with talent at the top with James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love coming off their second straight Finals together — Love was injured when Cleveland made it in 2015 — and there’s no reason to think they won’t win the Eastern Conference again. But in building their “Big 3,” the Cavs exhausted assets to add quality players to the bench unless they’re willing to part with one of their stars.
The next GM or president of basketball operations will need to be creative to keep Cleveland rolling.
Billups, who previously interviewed with Atlanta about a front-office gig, may not want his first as a major decision-maker to be with a franchise as high profile as the Cavs, who are under constant scrutiny and pressure. That’s the deal for any team with James and the weight will only grow next season as the three-time champion nears free agency again.
James could bolt Cleveland for the second time, and this time there would be no return as he’ll be 33 and looking to end his career.
But that’s a worry for next June. The more immediate concern is for Gilbert, who has gone through four GMs in 12 years as Cleveland’s owner, to find someone to oversee the daily operations.
And beyond the basketball, if Billups is picked by Gilbert, he’ll also have to juggle whether to uproot his family from its home in Denver and walk away from a cushy TV analyst job, a position he’s handled as smoothly as a double team during his playing days.
It will be a lot for Billups to consider.
If he turns them down, the Cavs will have even more to handle in a summer that’s just begun.
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.
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