“He handled the situation exactly like he was supposed to,” Griffin said Monday on ESPN’s The Jump. “He went to [Cavs owner] 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.”
Griffin said he thought Irving would end up getting traded, but would not speculate on where the Cavs All-Star point guard might go. He said both sides would be better if Irving were traded.
“This is a guy whose list included really good coaching situations — Brad Stevens and [Gregg] Popovich. This is a guy who recruited LeBron [James], [Gordon] Hayward and a host of other free agents, and all of a sudden LeBron came back, so he was sold a totally different situation than he’s actually in, and he worked very well in, he won a championship in.
“I see this as him looking for a fit for himself, to take the next step in his career. I think 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 are expected to win a championship by way of example. But what that doesn’t always allow is for a player like Kyrie to test his boundaries and see how good he can really be, and can I really be the front man of a team like that.”
Griffin acknowledged that it’s fair to criticize Irving for not being able to succeed without LeBron.
“I don’t think he’s figured out how to carry the mantle of a team and win games in that environment,” he said. “None of the players on that team had learned how to do it before LeBron got there. That didn’t grow organically. They didn’t learn how to win together.
“Not that [Irving] couldn’t have carried the load, but he probably didn’t have enough expectation of himself to do it, because everybody just assumed, ‘Well if we lose this one, it’s OK.’ And that’s really my fault. We had to do a better job of calibrating everybody toward when LeBron is out of a game, that’s opportunity to you.”
Griffin, whose contract with the Cavaliers was set to expire June 30, left Cleveland’s front office on June 19 citing a difference with Gilbert on “fit” moving forward.