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<font face='verdana' size='1' color =#CC0000><b> * New * </b></font> Cavaliers fire GM Jim Paxson

CLEVELAND Jim Paxson was fired today as general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose stunning second-half collapse this season cost them their first trip to the NBA playoffs in seven years.

Paxson s dismissal has been expected for weeks and came exactly one month after Paul Silas was fired as coach by owner Dan Gilbert, who has had a tumultuous first two months running the franchise.

The Cavaliers were 31-21 on Feb. 25, and 34-30 when Silas was fired, but the team fell apart down the stretch and finished 42-40, losing a tiebreaker with New Jersey for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Gilbert, who took over as principal owner from Gordon Gund on March 1, released Paxson with two years and $2 million left on the GM s contract because he said change was necessary.

We felt the team had made progress in the past two years, Gilbert said. But to get to a championship level we felt we needed to bring our own people in.

Gilbert also said interim coach Brendan Malone, who went 8-10 after taking over for Silas, will not be a candidate to be the Cavs next coach. Malone, however, will remain with the organization.

A two-time All-Star as a player, Paxson s tenure as Cleveland s GM will be remembered for poor draft picks, a carousel of head coaching changes, the arrival of LeBron James, Carlos Boozer s defection as a free agent, but perhaps most importantly, no playoff appearances since 1998.

Although critics are quick to point out Paxson s failings, he was also responsible for ridding the team of some burdensome contracts leftovers from previous GM Wayne Embry that prevented the team from improving with offseason moves.

Paxson traded Shawn Kemp and his four-year $70.8 million contract to Portland in 2000. He also was responsible for freeing the team of deals that Embry and former principal owner Gordon Gund gave to players including Lamond Murray, Bob Sura, Wes Person, Brevin Knight and Cedric Henderson.

Paxson has finally put the Cavaliers in position to spend money on free agents this summer, but now he won t get the chance.

Paxson joined the Cavaliers as their vice president of basketball operations in 1998 and succeeded Embry as GM the following year.

He got a contract extension and promotion last July from Gund, who has retained a 15 percent share in the team now owned by Gilbert.

The Cavaliers were 185-307 in Paxson s six seasons in charge.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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