In a "Chalk Talk" event for Cavs' season ticket holders before last night's game against the Chicago Bulls, a game which the Cavs lost in part because of an emotionally detached Luol Deng and a withering 3rd quarter team effort, GM Chris Grant fielded questions from Wine & Gold United members about the team's performance thus far and his goals for the rest of the season.
Among other things, it was the first time Grant appeared before fans and answered questions directly about Anthony Bennett.
Grant was by the way almost cartoonishly gaunt, his chest literally concave, and he admitted that he's had a number of late nights this season. He claimed he'd put his three sons to bed "just once since Christmas." The pressure to win and to achieve a berth in the postseason is beginning to weigh on him in a physical way, clearly. Nonetheless, he responded to fans' inquiries easily and with only a hint of PR-speak.
He admitted that number-one-overall pick Anthony Bennett "obviously" hasn't been playing how the organization had been hoping, but urged patience from fans. He likened Bennett's critical reception to Tristan Thompson's and reminded fans that big, young players take longer to develop and that Bennett is the guy who has been working hardest to improve his body at practices.
One fan asked why the Cavs haven't shipped Bennett to the D-league, a question which has been posed with increasing confusion and urgency by local and national media outlets recently.
Grant replied that as long as Bennett was in Coach Brown's regular rotation, which he had been until the Deng trade, he thought it was much more valuable for the rookie to get NBA minutes, playing against "stronger, faster" competition. He did acknowledge the value of the NBDL as a player development tool for untested and veteran players alike. Grant said he intends to begin using the Canton Charge even more to rehab injured players.
Yesterday, it was reported that Luol Deng scoffed at the three-year, $30-million offer the Bulls offered him this past summer. When Grant was asked how much it would realistically take to keep Deng, he said only "a lot," but did say they didn't view Deng as a rental. The organization traded for him with the intent to keep him. He said that he believed it would be possible to retain Deng and lure another big-ticket free agent and that owner Dan Gilbert traditionally has no qualms about the luxury tax, as long as moves make basketball sense.
Near the end of the session, when Grant kept insisting that the goal this year was to make the playoffs, it felt almost like a personal prayer. His job will most certainly be in jeopardy if this improved squad (complete with multiple very high lottery picks) fails to reach the postseason in the depleted — "confusing," as Grant says — Eastern Conference.