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When Ferry resigned, few questioned that Dan Gilbert would hand the reins to Grant.
"Chris is not what you'd call a classic rookie GM," Gilbert told reporters at the time. "He had more experience than Danny did when we hired him five years ago." To wit: Grant's ascension through the Hawks front office gave him a taste of how an organization runs from top to bottom, and he'd been heavily involved in their draft preparation in later years — a role he also figured heavily in under Ferry.
"Even though he's a relatively young guy, he's been around a long time. People know his work and respect him," says Windhorst. "He's really known as one of the more intellectual GMs. There are sort of two different types: the former players who don't necessarily know the advanced stats, they know things intuitively; the scout guys; and then there's guys like Chris."
Ferry and Grant became close friends, but they were never philosophical blood brothers. Of course, some things have changed since he's taken over — it's bound to happen with two different people and two different personalities at the helm. But Grant declines to go into specifics.
Gilbert, however, is ready to roll.
"Danny and Chris have different styles, for sure," he says. "I think Danny did a pretty good job overall and achieved some success. Chris runs a very open shop. The culture is open. They seek out anybody's opinion. He's a great listener, very curious, whether it's about basketball or not about basketball.
"Chris is very smart, very methodical, very patient. He's the perfect guy for the job right now. He has a great staff, they work well as a team, and they want to build a championship organization. But they want to do it in a methodical way — not by just pulling the trigger on something."
That last bit has a double meaning. On one level, Gilbert knows that Grant is in a completely different situation than Ferry was: Grant is planting complementary pieces around a rookie, not adding costly sidekicks for an MVP.
On another level, it's very much a referendum on Ferry, who made a midseason trade in early 2008 that shipped out five Cavaliers, including Larry Hughes, and brought in four new players, including Delonte West, Ben Wallace, and Wally Szczerbiak. Though most folks lauded Ferry for the ballsy move, the shakeup never panned out. The thrown-together squad didn't jell in time for the playoffs, which ended in another early exit. Each of those players was eventually shuffled out of town in Ferry's never-ending search for guys who could actually put the ball in the basket.
It's the sort of roster blowup one NBA agent says Grant is unlikely to consider, for better or worse.
"If there's one thing I would critique, it's that I think he can be passive at times," the agent says. "He's not one who's going to aggressively flip over the entire team, like when Danny Ferry made that six- or seven-person deal in the middle of the season. That's not something I think Chris would do."
Gilbert considers that one more reason to like his GM. Grant himself would simply answer that he will remain patient with the plan, consider all options, not rule anything out, and continue to build the team according to his philosophy. Not that the game-by-game returns always make that easy.
A common refrain among Cavs fans is that free agents won't come to Cleveland. It's usually because of the city's perceived shortcomings when compared to, say, L.A. or Miami, or because of presumed anger at Dan Gilbert for his astringent public opinions.
It's true that guys like Orlando's trade-hungry center Dwight Howard are never going to come here. Cleveland simply can't compete with the glitter of big-time markets.
But free agents in the secondary tier go where the money is — and Cleveland does have money. When Houston Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry was a restricted free agent, he fired off an angry tweet criticizing Gilbert for his anti-LeBron ranting in the wake of The Decision. Three days later, Lowry signed an offer sheet with the Cavs. (Houston matched the offer and kept Lowry, but by then the rule had found its exception.)
On the list of rebuilding tactics at Chris Grant's disposal, free agency is pretty damn low anyway.
"If you look at it, [championship teams] are all built through trade and draft," he says. "There hasn't been one team that won a championship that was built on free agency.
"Do we have to be a free-agent destination? It doesn't matter. We know we are going to use draft and trade, and free agency as a supplemental piece. It's not something new. It's not a special formula. We are going to stay the course and be practical."
And then Grant, methodically and with precise recollection, lists the free agents of the recent championship teams. Maybe all of them.
"If you look at the Lakers, who's their free agents in the last five years? Ron Artest and Steve Blake? Boston's free agent? James Posey. San Antonio's free agents in the last five years? Gary Neal and Roger Mason. Dallas? Ian Mahinmi."
Of course, there is the Heat, with its free-agent shopping spree that landed James and Chris Bosh, among lesser talents.
"Miami may win a championship, and they could be the first, and that's okay," Grant concedes. "But if you're going to play the percentages ..."
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