Details about the breakup between Dan Gilbert and David Griffin are beginning to leak out, though we may never know the full extent of why they couldn’t make things work. The combination of money and ego is often toxic in the dealings of headstrong men.
One factor in their demise, if early reports are to be believed, was their divergent visions for the future of the franchise.
Per source familiar w/ breakdown, Griffin removed himself from consideration when it became clear his vision for CLE didn't match Gilbert's— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 19, 2017
League source to AmicoHoops on Cavs/Griff: "The basketball guy has a difference in opinion with the owner on the what and how of next steps"— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) June 19, 2017
While there were likely many things that went into this, it is possible that Gilbert and Griffin had the same problem the entire fan base has had since the end of the Finals: they simply lived in different realities, and had very different ideas about what needed to be done this offseason.
If you follow politics, you are likely familiar with the idea that people can construct their own narratives within their own bubbles. The world through the eyes of the average Fox News viewer is a very different one than the world that exists in the mind of the average MSNBC viewer.
The Cavs seem to have the beginnings of a similar problem. There are two possible stories we can tell ourselves about where the team is, and the story we choose heavily informs what we think they should do this summer.
Reality #1: The Cavs, as currently constructed, can compete with the Warriors.
In this version of reality, the Cavs are good enough (or almost good enough) to win the title next year. Maybe they need a little bit of luck, or to tinker with the roster around the edges, but they are close.
Why would they want to do something dramatic, like trade Kevin Love? We just watched them dominate the entire Eastern Conference playoffs. For whatever reason, they weren’t ready to play in the first two games of the Finals. But throw those games out, and they were neck and neck with Golden State over the last three despite not getting much help from their bench.
For those who subscribe to this version of events, the plan should be to bring the core of the team back. Add some depth where possible. Hope that Kyrie Irving makes another leap, and that the big three can continue to get even more comfortable playing with each other. Maybe Iman Shumpert will stop being terrible, maybe Tristan Thompson can figure out how to give the Warriors problems again.
They should be right back in the Finals next year, and with any luck, they could win the whole thing.
Reality #2: The Warriors are far superior to the Cavs, and dramatic change is needed in order to compete.
Over here, in this reality, things are a little more dire. Golden State is possibly the greatest basketball team ever assembled, and the Cavs were not close to beating them. Had it not been for their red hot shooting in Game 4, they would have been swept, despite being pretty much fully healthy in the Finals for the first time.
This is all very bad because the Warriors aren’t going to get worse anytime soon, but LeBron could very well leave after next season. If he doesn’t see a path to beating them while remaining in Cleveland, he won’t hesitate to go elsewhere.
Those telling themselves this story are much more likely to want to see dramatic change. Trading Love for Paul George or Jimmy Butler, either of whom would match up better against Golden State, is a no-brainer.
To have any chance to win another title, they have to do something big to try and get closer to that juggernaut out west.
I doubt these were the exact parameters of the philosophical disagreement between Gilbert and Griffin, and it is likely that other factors had much more to do with their falling out.
But whoever is hired to make decisions for the Cavs going forward will have to decide which reality he lives in. And that decision could determine whether or not Kevin Love is back next season.