Chauncey Billups could have become the Cleveland Cavaliers’ president of basketball operations. Only Dan Gilbert made him an offer he could refuse.
Gilbert reportedly offered Billups $1.5 million – and then $2 million – for a job that, league sources said, commanded $4 million.
Thus, while other teams gobble up free agents and trade for All-Stars, the Cavs are searching for an executive to steer their misguided ship – and there’s no denying who’s at fault for this.
“I would go to Dan Gilbert,” Sporting News NBA columnist Sean Deveney said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “The type of things that he’s done since the Finals ended – the treatment of David Griffin, of course, was bizarre. You had a guy who’s well-respected around the league, has done a great job and has gotten you to the Finals three years in a row, has managed to make roster additions despite not really having any assets whatsoever – the fact that he’s been able to do that is very well-respected around the league. And still Dan Gilbert lets him walk.”
The reasons for that, sources say, were as superficial as they were nonsensical.
“If you talk to folks within that Cavaliers organization, Gilbert felt like he wasn’t getting enough credit himself,” Deveney said. “If David Griffin is getting all the credit, well, let me fire him – or let him walk and not give him a new contract – and then they’ll have to give me some credit. So it sort of backfired, and I think you can see the mess that they’re in. Low-balling Chauncey Billups, I don’t understand the logic there, and I certainly don’t understand much of what Gilbert has done in the last four weeks or so.”
That Gilbert holds his executives in low regard is no secret, and Billups, to be fair, does not have experience running a team. Thus, perhaps the low-ball offer shouldn’t come as a surprise.
But that doesn’t make it okay.
“You certainly don’t want to take a premier job and go out and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to hire you, but we’re going to pay you like you’re the GM of the Milwaukee Bucks,’” Deveney said. “I don’t think you can do that because that’s a high-pressure job. You’ve got to get it right, and you’ve got very little wiggle room. The fact that he’s not as accomplished, that’s fine – and if you want to get somebody who’s accomplished, you’re going to have to pay them a lot, too. But if you’re going to ask somebody to take a high-pressure job like that, a high-profile job, then I think the pay has got to be sort of commensurate with the amount of pressure that you’re going to be under.”
Plus, in Cleveland, success does not guarantee staying power. Under Griffin, the Cavs advanced to three consecutive NBA Finals and won the first championship in franchise history.
Griffin’s reward? The door.
“Dan Gilbert, if he wants to be cheap about the situation, then he can be cheap about the situation,” Deveney said. “But Chauncey Billups can say, ‘Hey, I can go make that at ESPN and not have to deal with the pressures of this job.’ If you believe that Chauncey Billups is the guy who can handle this job, then you can at least pay him the middle range of what a general manager would get – not the very low end of the scale. Like I say, this is a job people are going to be watching you on, and he’s a high-profile guy himself.”