David Griffin

Ex-Cavs GM pinpoints where Warriors have 'huge advantage over Houston'

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USATSI

Ex-Cavs GM pinpoints where Warriors have 'huge advantage over Houston'

The Houston Rockets are in the driver's seat right now. Entering play on Thursday, they have a one-game lead over the Warriors for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Winners of 17 straight games, the Rockets believe this is their year to detrone the defending champs.

But fomer Cavaliers GM David Griffin, while he he believes the Rockets are a really good team, thinks the Warriors still hold one distinct advantage.

"The fact that [the Rockets] are able to keep PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute on the court as much as they do and still score is a big thing heading into the playoffs. If they can score in the playoffs like that and keep those guys together, they can go as far as they really want to. They key will be, James [Harden] and Chris [Paul] have not been terribly good in the playoffs versus the regular season. And the game is officiated so differently then. They get to the free throw line just a ridiculous amount of time right now. And I just don't think that will be the case in the playoffs," Griffin said on KNBR 680 on Thursday. "And at that point, I think it becomes much harder for them to keep their defensive pieces on the court. And I think that's where Golden State ends up with the really big advantage because I think their best lineups don't have any problem scoring and they can be stiffling defensively. What you've seen from Golden State the last 10 games, it's a blessing for Steve [Kerr] and the team that Houston's on the run they are because they are sort of laying in the weeds right now. But their defensive rating is second in the last 10 games, that's what you want to see at this time of the year from Golden State."

Coming off a third straight trip to the NBA Finals, the Warriors at times look like they aren't firing on all cylinders. Before the All-Star break in February, Kerr admitted the team was gassed and was looking forward to the time off. But in the six games since the break, the Warriors have turned up the defensive intensity. Griffin expressed belief that the Warriors will be able to flip the switch come playoff time and smother opponents.

"And that's where they have the huge advantage over Houston, because they have the level of trust that comes from winning a championship together. They know when they decide to flip the switch, they know what they can expect from each other. Houston really doesn't know that yet come playoff time. That's a really, really big deal. I think it goes a really long way to dictating outcome of playoff series," Griffin said. "There's going to be that moment where you really need to fall back on each other and believe in one another and Golden State is going to do that. So when they flip the switch, which really be about being focused enough to not have some of the most ridiculous turnovers in the NBA, I think you'll see them be really, really good because they know already what they're made of and what they're all about."

Former Cavs GM defends Kyrie Irving's trade request: 'LeBron casts...'

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AP

Former Cavs GM defends Kyrie Irving's trade request: 'LeBron casts...'

On Monday, June 19, the Cavaliers and GM David Griffin "mutally" agreed to part ways.

On Monday, August 6, Cleveland's former general manager appeared on ESPN's "The Jump."

Naturally, the conversation began with a discussion surrounding Kyrie Irving.

"I think Kyrie is going to end up getting traded," Griffin said. "But I think what Ron was saying is really unfair to Kyrie. I don't think this is youth and ignorance. This is a guy who handled the situation exactly like he was supposed to.

"He went to Dan Gilbert privately, told him that he thought he would be happier somewhere else. The absolute worst thing this guy could have done was pretend to be all-in, and sink the ship from within.

"Most guys don't have the courage to do what he did. So that's not youth and ignorance. That's a little bit more courage than people give him credit for."

Who is Ron?

That would be former NBA player Ron Harper, who had some strong words for Kyrie and his trade request.

"Youth. Ignorance ... the inmates are in charge. So when the inmates are in charge, nothing but bad things can happen, right?" Harper told Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal. "You’re never going to be a guy who carries your team. You see when LeBron doesn’t play, you don’t carry the team.”

Irving -- the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft -- is a four-time All-Star and was named All-NBA Third-Team in 2014-15.

He will turn 26 years old in March.

"I see this as him looking for a fit for himself now to take the next step in his career," Griffin explained. "This is a guy who wants to know how good he can be.

"LeBron casts a very large shadow over an organization -- and most of it is really, really positive. You know you're expected to win a championship, but what that doesn't always allow is for a player like Kyrie to test his boundaries a little bit and see how good he can really be."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller