Thank You, David Griffin

Published: July 9, 2019

A very long time ago, in a time where I was still athletic, my soccer coach pulled me off the bus after a game and looked me dead in the eye.  We had just won a tournament and it was freezing cold outside.  I could see his breath when he said: “you are the engine that drives this team.” And then, not blinking, he said the same thing again for emphasis.  I can still remember this 15 years later like it was yesterday.  I remember the exact location, the way the cold air felt, the angle of the bus in the parking lot.  At that time, I was a pale, skinny kid playing in inconsequential adolescent games.  To be told that so directly, to be believed in like that, transformed the way I thought about myself.

I didn’t know exactly what to think when David Griffin was hired.  I sit on the outside doing analysis, with no real exposure to who is who on NBA teams and in NBA front offices.  I don’t know the mandates imposed upon the front office by ownership.  I don’t know which players slack off in practice and which ones are great locker room presences.  I know what I hear and try to figure out who is a credible source of information and who is not, and through all of that I try to splice together what I can.  What I heard about David Griffin was that he was an extremely bright basketball mind and one who presented himself well.  So after seeing/hearing good intel from smart people, I figured hey, this guy sounds pretty great.

It’d take 10 seconds to fast forward to today, but what Griffin has done so far in his brief Pelicans tenure is amazing.  Not because of his free agency moves and not because of his savvy orchestration through the offseason, although both of those have been much more than I could’ve asked for.  Because here’s what Griffin has done that is most important: completely transformed the culture here.  And I don’t say this to bash Dell or any of the old regime, but rather, to highlight what a special person Griffin seems to be.  It’s evident in the way that he talks to people: candidly, intelligently, authentically, and most importantly, inspirationally.  You can just tell the effect he has on people, his unique ability to pull people to greater heights.  And although he has spread the love this offseason to everyone, I am particularly interested in his investment in Jrue, because it is clear that Jrue is a focal point for him.

I have always loved Jrue Holiday as a fanalyst, or whatever you would call me.  The way he carries himself, the way he speaks, the way he plays the game.  Jrue Holiday the person seems to be much greater than Jrue Holiday the player, despite how good of a player he is.  As much as Anthony Davis was the better player, Jrue was always my favorite guy to root for.  And Griffin is expecting great things of Jrue, as evidenced by the conversation below in a recent interview:

Justin Termine: “Yeah, you said you asked [Jrue Holiday], ‘Do you want to be the MVP?’ Do you think that’s something he’s capable of being?”

David Griffin: “I do, and nobody thought Steve Nash was and he was two-time MVP, and people would’ve thought we were insane for even uttering that notion.  Players in this league are so gifted.  When you’re as good as Jrue Holiday is, what makes you take the next step is just your vision of self, and sometimes you need to be given permission to dominate people.  And in his situation with Anthony around, I think he was always sort of waiting, as though it was Anthony’s job, and now Jrue knows it’s his job, and he’s ready to do that.”

While much of this offseason will be made about Zion (who, by the way, also seems like a fantastic person), I am happiest about a culture where people are called and challenged to be better, not because what they are doing isn’t good enough, but because from the top, they are being told that they are capable of much more.  And to have that as a franchise, for that to be the resounding message in your workplace, man, it feels like something really special is starting, particularly when the investment is in a front office and roster that is just loaded with good people.  Thank you, David Griffin, for everything you’ve done so far, and I am so excited to see what is in store for the Pelicans.

*I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Gayle Benson’s considerable investment in reinvigorating this culture.  Without this, none of this other stuff would be possible.*


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