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Cleveland Cavaliers Can Thank Chris Grant for Their Four Game Winning Streak
Go ahead and scream it if you want Cleveland Cavaliers fans, your team is on a four-game winning streak for the first time since LeBron James donned the wine and gold and wore No. 23.
After suffering an embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at home and firing general manager Chris Grant, the Cavaliers have inexplicably turned into one of the hottest teams in the NBA heading into the All-Star break. Only the Houston Rockets—winners of their last six—have a longer winning streak right now, which would make the Cavaliers the hottest team in the Eastern Conference at this time.
The Cavaliers once seemed like a runaway train headed straight to the cellar of the Eastern Conference. What once was a roster patiently awaiting being dismantled at the trade deadline, has suddenly turned into a team that is just three games out from the No. 8 seed and six games out from the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. And the only person the Cavaliers have to thank for all of this is the man they fired a week ago, Grant.
Grant’s firing sent shockwaves through the organization and the city, but more importantly it hit home to the players. After the first two wins of their current win streak, second-year guard Dion Waiters was quoted saying, “If we’d played the way we have the last 2 games he’d probably still be here.”
That type of ownership of the team’s underperformance and win-loss record was nowhere to be found when Grant was here—even after head coach Byron Scott was fired last year. The closest thing to ownership of Scott’s firing being on their performance was All-Star Kyrie Irving’s comments last year. Irving stated, “I feel like a piece of me is missing. Emotions are running high. I’m trying to get over loss of my basketball father.”
In less than a year, it is easy to see the maturity differences in the handling of two major firings from the young players on the roster. When Scott was fired, the reception seemed to be mourning the loss of a friend and father figure. On the contrary, the firing of Grant has been a wake-up call of sorts for the players on the roster—especially the ones Grant put his name and basketball reputation on the line for by drafting when nobody else seemingly had them rated that high.
Since Dan Gilbert sent Grant packing, the likes of Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett have been taking turns leading the Cavaliers to victories in each of the last four games. Obviously Irving has had a role in these four wins as well, but he was the “easy” selection of the four players taken in the Top 5 of the NBA Draft the last three seasons.
During the winning streak, Waiters is averaging 17.7 points, 3.7 assists and shooting 45.3 percent from the floor. Thompson, who had a monster game of 25 points and 15 rebounds in the win over Detroit, is averaging 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds on 54.5 percent shooting. As for Bennett—the man previously labeled the biggest bust in NBA history—he is averaging 7.7 points, five rebounds and shooting 52.3 percent from the field in the team’s four-game winning streak, including his first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds against Sacramento.
To say the firing of the man who drafted them lit a fire underneath these three players would be an understatement. Grant being made the sacrificial lamb for the mess that was a 16-33 team when he was ousted has forced the youth on this roster to grow up seemingly overnight.
Social media may joke about the Cavaliers being 4-0 in the post-Grant era and say he was holding the team back from an atmosphere standpoint, but the fact of the matter is these young players got their first real taste of the business side of the NBA when he was fired. You can hear about it from veterans and see it happening around the league, but until you see the man who put his faith in you shown the door because of your performance, you truly do not know what the business side of the NBA is like.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have Chris Grant to thank for their team suddenly turning the corner before the All-Star break. From the players he drafted finally showing why they were taken, to the reality check delivered by his firing, Grant deserves more credit than he is being given.
Unfortunately very few people will admit that, and the next guy—whether that is David Griffin or someone else—will be the one to receive the praise for the foundation Grant built during his time in Cleveland.
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