GM David Griffin hears from league office, says Cavs made right call

ByRamona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin ESPN logo
Sunday, March 19, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- For the second straight Saturday night, an NBA team rested its star players during a prime-time, nationally televised game.

This time, it was the reigning champion Cavaliers, who sat their Big 3 of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in a 108-78 loss to the Clippers. A week earlier, the Warriors sat Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala for their Western Conference showdown against the Spurs.

Both games were on ABC.

Cleveland general manager David Griffin told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that the league office called him shortly after the team announced its decision Saturday.

"Yeah, they were not happy," Griffin said.

But the GM also said it isn't his job to appease the league and its television partners (which include ESPN).

"Yeah, and they're paying me to win a championship," he told Shelburne. "I'm not overly concerned about the perception of it. We literally had one guy rest tonight, and everybody else was reasonably injured, so I don't feel like we did anything terribly egregious."

Love returned to action Thursday after left knee surgery last month. Irving had exited the Cavs' game Thursday with tightness in his left knee and was still feeling soreness Saturday.

With both players out, coach Tyronn Lue said before the loss to the Clippers that he did not want James, who is healthy, to play solo.

"He wants to play," Lue said of James before the game. "He was mad, but I just thought for him it was the right decision -- not to go out there and try to carry the whole load by himself and playing more minutes. I just think getting those two back tomorrow and getting on the same page is good for us, instead of just trying to play him when Kevin can't play in a back-to-back and Kyrie can't play in the back-to-back.

"So it's tricky. He's pissed, but it's my decision, it's the medical staff's decision, and that's what we came up with."

Asked why the Cavs didn't rest their stars Sunday at the Lakers, Griffin cited rehab schedules.

"Because if they play tomorrow, they get two days off in a row now, and then they get two days off before Denver [on Wednesday]," Griffin told ESPN. "So from a rehab standpoint, he wouldn't have gotten the same amount of rest between games. We were never going to play Kevin this game, so he could get two days off. And Kyrie is off after leaving the last game hurt."

Griffin said the Cavs' situation was different than that of the Warriors, who rested healthy players against the Spurs.

"It was nothing like the last time that happened," he told ESPN, referring to last weekend. "Those were three healthy dudes that rested. That's not what happened tonight. Yeah, it sucks from a timing perspective. I feel bad for the league. I really do. I feel bad for the league, but it is what it is for us, from an injury standpoint. As you know, we haven't had a team together for more than a week at a time all year."

When asked if ABC will have to consider not scheduling these marquee games if the stars keep sitting, Lue acknowledged feeling bad about the situation.

"I know," the coach said. "Sorry, ABC. This wasn't intentional. It's serious. So no need to have setbacks to play one game on national TV. We're being smart about it."

Cleveland dropped to 0-6 without James this season.

Guard Kyle Korver also missed his sixth straight game with a sore left foot.

"He said he's feeling better," Lue said of Korver. "There's progress. ... Everything goes through the training staff. They want to kind of see him go through a practice before he does anything serious, and that's understandable. Hopefully we'll have him pretty soon coming up."

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