CLEVELAND -- Just like his predecessor, David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman recognized that the team was not having very much fun, even during victories over top opponents, and he decided a change was necessary.
That change came in the form of three trades over a 90-minute period that saw six players and a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft depart the organization, and another four athletes join a franchise that has designs on making a fourth straight trip to The Finals.
And Altman expects the deals will help inspire the on-court leader of the team, small forward LeBron James.
“I think we’re going to see a rejuvenated LeBron James, and that’s the key,” Altman said in a conference call with the Cleveland media. “This guy is so good, he dictates outcomes, and that was the hardest part for me, seeing him. I don’t want to say he didn’t believe in this group. I want to be careful in saying that because he’s going to compete every night. He’s going to try to get whatever team he’s on to The Finals.
“I wanted to see a renewed sense of joy in him, and being around him the last 24 hours has been great. I think he’s excited, and I can see a renewed sense of joy in him when he’s in the building, and we’ll see that translate to some fun basketball. He’s the key. He’s the guy that is going to take us back to the Promised Land, so you want to put the right pieces around him.”
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The first domino fell when the Cavaliers acquired point guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr. from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for point guard Isaiah Thomas, power forward Channing Frye and their first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
An hour later, the Cavaliers sent shooting guard Iman Shumpert to the Sacramento Kings, as well as point guard Derrick Rose and small forward Jae Crowder to the Utah Jazz for shooting guard Rodney Hood (Utah) and point guard George Hill (Sacramento).
To complete the deal, the Jazz sent Joe Johnson to Sacramento.
Then, the Cavaliers traded guard Dwyane Wade to the Miami Heat for a heavily-protected second-round pick in the NBA Draft, which they turned around and sent to the Kings.
“Obviously, we want LeBron to be here long-term,” Altman said. “I know that he’s committed to this team, and he’ll be committed to these new players. I know for a fact that he’s excited about each addition. This is a basketball savant, and also, a basketball junkie, and when you talk to him about these guys, a couple of the guys, I talked to him about before we made these transactions, he knows their games in and out.”
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With the deals in place, Altman feels “much better about us culturally” and believes the Cavaliers are better primed for a postseason run because of the attitude that is now in the building.
“With the window that we had and the opportunities that we had, I thought it was the right time,” Altman said.
“If these opportunities don’t present themselves and we couldn’t do anything like this, your best option is, ‘Okay, let’s see what we can do to change internally.’ These opportunities presented themselves, and we felt that we had to act.”