Undoubtedly, the biggest news that came out of David Griffin’s introductory press conference on Wednesday was the Pelicans’ new executive vice president of basketball operations plan for dealing with Anthony Davis’ public trade request back on January 28.
Griffin’s positive history with Davis’ agent Rich Paul and his star client LeBron James likely gave the team’s new leader a leg up among the more than 100 applicants the Pelicans interviewed, but don’t begin to think it’s the sole reason Gayle Benson was so eager to hire Griffin.
Here are six takeaways from Griffin’s first day with the Pelicans that expand beyond the Davis drama.
GRIFFIN WILL EXPAND THE PELICANS STAFF
After he left the Cavaliers in 2017, Griffin has been incredibly selective in choosing his next destination as an NBA front office mind. During the team’s existence, the Pelicans have often fought the notion of being a thrifty organization that was a step being some of the more innovative franchises while playing in a city where the Saints were the No. 1 focus.
But Griffin was swayed by Benson because of the flexibility he’s going to be given to grow the team’s infrastructure to what he helped put together that led to Cleveland’s 2016 NBA title.
“The bandwidth that (Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert) and his group gave us were amazing,” Griffin said. “When you go about building an infrastructure, you don’t hire roles; you hire people, and I think something we need to do … is we need to get the right people on the bus and then we’ll figure out what to call each other once we’re rolling to the right place.”
David Griffin has hit the ground running, just one day after he was introduced to the Pelicans organization and the city of New Orleans as the…
Griffin has already begun that building process in his first day, as the news broke Wednesday that the team was granted permission to speak with Clippers assistant general manager Trent Redden about a senior front office role, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The new Pelicans leader said he’s not necessarily looking to hire a general manager, but “if the role of general manager is what it takes to get the right people, then yes, we’re open-minded to giving that opportunity out to somebody.”
Griffin also said he’s looking to innovate and update the team’s areas of performance and player care, as well as its analytics group.
HE FELL IN LOVE WITH NEW ORLEANS AS A KID
Griffin began his speech spinning the tale about the first time he visited to New Orleans, when he was 14-years-old and in town for a national video game convention with the family of one of his classmates at the time.
As a longtime NBA executive, he said it’s the first place he bought a suit.
The opportunity to experience and embrace the city’s culture is what stuck with the Phoenix native, and it’s a city he said he thoroughly enjoyed visiting while working with the Suns and the Cavaliers.
“Everything about the city, the architecture, Audubon Park, the Quarter, the music, the people was what I equated to culture in my life as a 14-year-old,” he said.
HIS HISTORY WITH ALVIN GENTRY IS A PLUS
Griffin and Gentry worked together with the Phoenix Suns for six years, after Gentry was hired as the team’s assistant coach in 2004 and during a two-year stint during Gentry’s tenure as head coach of the Suns from 2008-10. That relationship helped put Gentry in the running for the Cavaliers’ head coaching vacancy in 2014 before they hired David Blatt and Gentry joined the Warriors as an associate head coach.
Griffin’s comfort with Gentry, he said, stems from the pair’s comfort in speaking frankly with each other, rather than walking on eggshells in a boss-subordinate relationship. The team’s new VP took several opportunities to voice his support for Gentry as a key part of the Pelicans’ future, which answered a key question after the team’s third sub-.500 record in four years with its current coach.
“The only reason it’s meaningful to have a relationship with Alvin is we can look each other in the eye and call each other on things,” Griffin said. “Alvin was really honest about saying he’s at his best when he’s ‘fearless Alvin’, when he’s not looking over his shoulder, when he’s not feeling like he has to do everything by himself.”
It took David Griffin 30 minutes to know he was ready for his life to change.
DON’T EXPECT THE TEAM’S ON-COURT STYLE TO CHANGE
Together in Phoenix, Gentry and Griffin were at the forefront of the Suns’ increased pace of play that was ahead of its time back in the mid-2000’s. During the six seasons the two worked together in Phoenix, the Suns led the league in offensive rating five times and had a mark (113.9) that was three points higher than any other team during the 2009-10 season where they made a run to the Western Conference Finals.
For comparison, that mark is higher than that of the Warriors’ 73-win team from three years ago and would have ranked in the top three in the league each of the last three years. Under Gentry, the Pelicans have been known to be one of the quicker teams in the league, and that’s not going anywhere.
“I think the game is supposed to played a certain way,” Griffin said. “I want to invest in people who have the basketball IQ and the ability to play with others and to facilitate for others the ball to move.”
DON’T TELL HIM SMALL MARKETS CAN’T WIN
New Orleans has always ranked among the NBA’s smallest markets, and the team’s up-and-down success rate has only backed up the cliched idea that professional sports teams in small markets can’t win titles without the allure that larger cities provide.
But Griffin, who came from a team that ranked near the middle of the NBA’s 30 markets, is living proof that isn’t the case, if you can find the right recipe for success, even if it’ll look slightly different that Griffin’s ‘win-now’ model with James.
“This situation is about playing the long game and being mindful about sustaining success,” he said. “It’s a different thing. It’s not easy to flip the switch and win a championship tomorrow, but if you start building to the ethos of the city, you can build something that attracts the right people.
“You want to build something that lasts and means something to this city. … Everyone is there because they love it and because they have incredible passion for it. That’s why people are here. When we won in Cleveland, there were generations of people coming up to me, literally in tears that we delivered a championship for their grandfather to see. It was really powerful.
“It’s not just that you can win a championship in a smaller market. You should want to win a championship, because it means more.”
David Griffin took the stage Wednesday as the Pelicans next visionary, an owner of something the organization, its players, coaches and fans c…
EXPECT JRUE HOLIDAY TO BE THE CORE OF THE FUTURE
It was abundantly clear during the closing weeks of the Pelicans season, from talking with both Gentry and Holiday, that the team’s shooting guard is expected to become the new cornerstone of the organization’s talent pool moving forward, whether the team salvages its relationship with Davis or not.
But Holiday also said the day after the team’s final game that he hopes to continue playing for a team not gearing up for a massive rebuild. In a full-blown change, Holiday could all-the-sudden become a trade piece as a 10-year veteran in his prime.
Griffin, though, said he’s spoken directly with Holiday since he was brought on and gushed about the type of player and leader he saw in Holiday moving forward – not the type of speech you’d likely hear from someone who’s thought at all about trading such a major asset.
“He’s excited with the direction. He wants to compete. He wants to win, and I have every reason to think he’s going to want to do that with us,” Griffin said. “He’s a competitor that you want your franchise to represent.”