Cleveland — Chauncey Billups once competed against the Cleveland Cavaliers as a player. He could be joining them as an executive.
Billups met with team owner Dan Gilbert on Wednesday for the second straight day to discuss a front-office position with the Cavaliers, who are regrouping after losing to Golden State in the NBA Finals.
Gilbert could be close to offering a job to Billups, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. Billups is the first person to meet with Gilbert since he parted ways with general manager David Griffin this week when talks about a possible contract extension broke down.
Billups was in Cleveland, but as of 7 p.m. EDT there was no official agreement in place. The 40-year-old is likely weighing whether Cleveland is a good spot for him to begin a new career, given the team’s recent upheaval and that superstar LeBron James will be eligible for free agency after next season.
While the Cavaliers are looking for Griffin’s replacement after he guided them to three straight Finals, it’s believed that Billups would take on a different role, perhaps as the team’s director of basketball operations. Trent Redden, who served as the senior vice president of basketball operations, is also not returning next season.
Billups has no previous experience as an NBA executive, but he does have a long-standing relationship with Gilbert from their time together in Detroit and he knows the league well. Billups, who was a five-time All-Star, also is close with Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.
The turmoil in Cleveland’s front office came days before Thursday’s draft and as the Cavs launched plans to retool their roster after being dethroned as champions in five games by the Golden State Warriors.
The Cavaliers currently do not own a draft pick, but that could change; the team has been involved in numerous talks in recent days.
Also, a splashy hire like Billups could relieve some of the external criticism being aimed at Gilbert, who did not offer Griffin a contract extension last summer and then denied other teams permission to talk to him about job openings during the playoffs.
Griffin had been Cleveland’s GM since 2014, taking over the team shortly before James announced he was re-signing with the Cavaliers after playing four seasons in Miami.
Hornets welcome Howard
Charlotte coach Steve Clifford is confident he can help newly acquired Hornets center Dwight Howard become a dominant force and an NBA All-Star again.
Clifford is familiar with Howard, having coached him for six seasons as an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles.
“I know what he has to do to play well,” Clifford said. “He understands that I know him. I know his game. Being around him in different settings I have a feel for what he likes to do… There is no reason he can’t get back to playing at a really high level.”
General manager Rich Cho said Clifford’s familiarity with Howard is a major reason the Hornets pulled sent guard Marco Belinelli, center Miles Plumlee and the No. 41 overall pick in the NBA draft to the Hawks in exchange for Howard and the No. 31 overall pick. It meant taking on Howard’s contract, which will pay him $47 million over the next two seasons.
Now the question becomes if Howard can bounce back from two tumultuous seasons in Atlanta and Houston, and also fit in in Charlotte.
Howard was an NBA All-Star eight straight seasons from 2007-14. But Howard didn’t play in the fourth quarter of two of Atlanta’s first-round playoff games last season, something that irked the 13-year NBA veteran. Atlanta dealt Howard to Charlotte just one year into a three-year, $74 million contract.
While Clifford acknowledges Howard, 31, isn’t as athletic as he once was, he said the 6-foot-11, 265-pound center will bring defensive toughness and physicality — something the Hornets lacked last season while finishing 36-46.
Howard is the NBA’s leading active leader in shots blocked and rebounds. He’s also a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and has been selected to the NBA All-Defensive team five times.
“For three years when people looked on the schedule and saw we’re playing Charlotte on Wednesday it was like, ‘Oh man that’s not going to be easy,’” Clifford said. “But last year, in the last 25 games, it was easier. And we’re not going to win that way.”
Howard was not present at the news conference. However, Howard spoke with team owner Michael Jordan on Tuesday night and indicated he was “pumped up” about joining the Hornets, Cho said.