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Cavaliers watch NBA draft

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 12:34 p.m. MDT

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The NBA finals came and went without the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So did the draft.

Immersed in a summer of transition since being bounced early from the playoffs, the Cavs did not trade for a pick or buy a selection, leaving their roster unchanged one week before two-time MVP LeBron James struts into free agency looking to sign with a championship contender.

While the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat cleared more cap space to possibly sign James or another high-profile player in a free agent class by itself and New York and New Jersey added some young blood, the Cavaliers came away with what they had to begin with — nothing.

The Cavs, who are also in the midst of a coaching search, didn't immediately make themselves better, but that doesn't change the team's mission.

"The goal is to win," general manager Chris Grant said, "and the goal is to find a coach who fits with what we're looking for and the goal is to re-sign LeBron and build around him a championship-level team."

Grant said he and team owner Dan Gilbert have met with James and his representatives in the past two weeks.

Although Cleveland didn't raise its profile through the draft, Grant said the Cavs aren't worried about other teams looking more appealing to James.

"It doesn't concern me at all," Grant said. "We have a team that won 61 games last year. We've had the best team in the league the last two years. We have a culture that's in place. We have philosophies in place. Our guys believe in winning, all of our guys here, including LeBron.

"LeBron knows how important he is to Northeast Ohio. He's been part of that and built it. We have younger players who are up and coming. From our standpoint, our concern is us, and we're focusing on our team and building and getting better."

Grant would not characterize the team's meetings with James. He said there could be further discussions but that they "aren't necessarily necessary."

Cleveland was without a pick after trading its first rounder to Washington in February in the deal for forward Antawn Jamison. The Cavs also dispensed of their second-round choice last summer, when they acquired Shaquille O'Neal in a blockbuster from Phoenix.

It was the third time in six years the Cavs did not make a draft pick. That was also the case in 2005 and 2007.

With teams intent on making a run at James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and other free agents, the overriding goal for many clubs was to make deals to save money and cap space. Although the Cavs didn't do that in the draft, they did hold on to assets for future deals.

Rumored trades involving guards Mo Williams and Delonte West never materialized.

Now that the draft is over, the Cavs can return to finding a coach.

The team has whittled a long list of candidates down to about five, including former New Orleans and New Jersey coach Byron Scott, the unofficial frontrunner. Scott, who has been to seven finals as a player and coach, would be interested in coming to Cleveland but only as a fallback plan if Phil Jackson decides to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Wednesday, Jackson said he is leaning toward retirement and may take another week to decide if he wants to come back and pursue a 12th title. Jackson is weighing health concerns and the possibility owner Jerry Buss will slash his salary.

The Lakers are Scott's dream job, and he would appear to be Jackson's successor in part because of his tight friendship with Kobe Bryant, a former teammate and close friend.

Grant said the team will not be hiring a coach in the next "48 or 72 hours" and it might be difficult to sign one by the start of free agency.

"If we don't have a coach in place on July 1, it's not the end of the world," he said.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company