Cavs, The Duels: Dan Gilbert Edition

We haven’t had a textual duel here in some time, but the topic of Dan Gilbert caused more than a few furious emails between the CtB staff over the last week. On one side, Tom Pestak championed those who believed Gilbert was a unique figure who spent above and beyond what others could or would to win a championship and put the organization in a position to bring that championship home. On the other side, a ragtag group of rabblerousers claimed Gilbert is just a rich jerk whose ego is three times larger than his ability, and whose fingerprints have been all over every bad decision the Cavs have made since he bought the team.

The argument got so heated I had to metaphorically slap Tom Pestak across the face. After he slapped me back (I had it coming), we decided that instead of pistols at dawn, or swords, we’d trade broadsides with Sunday afternoon prose. The topic: what will Dan Gilbert’s legacy as an owner be? Will he be remembered fondly, or as a scourge? We’ll start with some comments Tom dropped in an email the other day, which started my glove hand twitching.

Tom Pestak: You know how LeBron thinks people take his greatness for granted because we focus on his off nights or whatever – I’m continually amazed at how much Dan Gilbert is taken for granted.  Give me a deep pocketed owner with a huge ego that wants to win more badly than hundreds of millions of dollars in luxury tax any day of the week.  People take that for granted the way they say LeBron is just a freak athlete that was granted those skills/attributed at birth.  Kinda, but that is belittling all of LeBron’s hard work.  Dan is a self made man.  To act like he owes it to us to spend nine figures into the luxury tax is… something.  He’s not perfect, but he has done some things right.

He’s hired some really smart basketball people that in a lot of ways had their reputations destroyed in Cleveland by championship or bust expectations every year since 2008.  We all think Mike Budenholzer is a great coach.  We all hate Mike Brown because our 66 win team lost to another great team that was roiding and a buzzsaw.  Budenholzer’s 60+ win team got swept by a Cavs team whose second best player was Podium Delly.  Bud’s still the coach in Atlanta and people still respect him.

In our email thread, EG used the Mike Brown double hiring as a stain on CavsDan’s legacy – but to me it shows someone willing to do whatever it takes (even absorb embarrassment and the a combined 6 years of guaranteed coach’s salary) to try to get it right.  David Blatt by many accounts was a really smart hire – it didn’t work out.  Dan was able to stomach paying three coaches at one time even as his team was in 1st place in the conference.  Kay Felder was Dan’s guy – it didn’t work out.  He’s gone.  The idea that Gilbert just makes idiotic emotional decisions and then we get left holding the bags is the entrenched narrative and it is tenuous at best. His money and reputation is on the line and I think he takes winning very seriously.

The Cavs have done something impressive to me since Gilbert took over.  They went all in / don’t rebuild, reload during the LeBron 1.0 years – sacrificing the future to have the best chance with LeBron.  Everyone (including Gilbert) became addicted to nationally televised Sunday afternoon games and of course deep playoff runs.  Then, after LeBron left, they fully committed to a proper rebuild (even after Gilbert’s letter boldly proclaimed they would win a ring before the chosen one).  They took on totally unprecendented salary figures during said tankfest in order to have mere chances at high lottery picks, they stomached that hot mess of a team and had the patience to try to develop punk ass entitled children like Kyrie.  Then, just as quickly as the flipped the switch to #TankStrong they flipped the #all-in switch and traded the future (Wiggins) for another chance at the present (Love).  That takes a lot of stones and I respect the way the org swings for the fences and backs up everything with $$.  They aren’t gun shy and Gilbert backs up just about every move.

Dan made himself a target with the letter and he seems to be able to handle it just fine, but I’m just surprised at how he’s often given the same “wow this guy is THE WORST” treatment in a town that has endured Ted Stepien, Art Modell, Jimmy Haslem, and a litany of money tight owners.

I’ve always said I thought Mike Brown was a good preparation coach and a good system defense coach.  And then the Cavs were awful at defense in 2014 so my opinion of him dropped a bunch.  But think about the second Mike Brown hiring from this angle that “Dan Gilbert is basically a spoiled brat that inherited a throne and now just wants to play dollhouse with our franchise.”  Dan probably LOVED those Mike Brown teams.  The ones that won gritty 76-72 playoff battles against his Pistons where every rebound and free throw could elate or destroy you.  I’m telling you that is his ideal team – the team that he would build.  And yet Gilbert let seven-seconds-or-less, won-nothing-as-of-yet David Griffin turn this “bring your lunchpail to work” team into a “JR Smith is pulling up from 30 feet and that’s part of the plan and we’re going to get better by adding Channing Frye and Kyle Korver to a historically great offense that can’t defend”  team.

Again, the guy isn’t a saint or a basketball savant, and letting Griff go looks like a mistake, at least because it was disruptive during a time that disruption was not ideal.  But the idea that Dan Gilbert is just doing what he wants doesn’t square with me.

Nate Smith:

Tom, I want to believe you, I really do, and until this year, the take that Gilbert is just “playing dollhouse with our franchise” might ring false, but it can’t be rebutted anymore. Dan Gilbert spent the summer taking a wrecking ball to intelligent basketball decision making and basically installed Koby Altman as a puppet to fulfill his basketball whims.

Meanwhile, the Cavs added a 36-year-old Jose Calderon as their first pick-up in free agency, and Calderon currently looks like the only player on this team capable of playing remotely competently at the point guard spot (yes, you could move Dwyane Wade and LeBron out of their respective spots, but you’d create holes in those spots). That was one of the bettter moves. Dan then spent the majority of the Cavs’ mid-level exception on Cedi Osman, a guy who barely sees the floor, when it could have been spent on a number of very high upside guys like Michael Beasley or Tyreke Evans who have both had great NBA seasons so far.

While I’ll give him credit for adding the surprisingly competent Jeff Green, Dan went out and got one of the worst reputation players in the league, Derrick Rose, who had been an abject disaster the last few years both on and off the court. Rose was known for things like a sordid rape trial and disappearing on his team with no notice before a game. Guess what, Rose still can’t shoot, still can’t defend, turns the ball over like crazy, and disappeared on the team again, eloping while he was “questioning his desire to play basketball again.” How is Derrick Rose still on this team?

How? Because Dan Gilbert has apparently hit the limit when it comes to the amount of money he will spend on this team. He won’t cut Derrick Rose and add another player because it would cause $3+ million in luxury taxes and salary. Another pay check he refuses to write? A paycheck for Tyronn Lue to not coach basketball games.

Tyronn Lue is as responsible as anyone for the product we’re seeing on the floor right now. Brian Windhorst has described Tyronn Lue’s coaching at times this year as “criminally negligent,” when it comes to the players the Cavs are playing in key moments. Lue continues to play the NBA’s worst starter at the point guard spot in crunch time, causing regular late game meltdowns. Lue has planted Jose “the only competent point guard the cavs have started all year” Calderon firmly on the bench. Meanwhile, he openly opined for Derrick Rose to get more playing time before Saturday’s debacle.

One of the things that could currently change the dynamic of this team would be to hire a coach that could motivate the team, hold people accountable, play sane lineups, and deliver some passion. But that would require Dan to pay another coach, which he’s apparently unwilling to do. And I get it.  The Cavs have posted an operating loss over the last couple years. The reportedly lost $40 million in 2015-2016, and $18 million in 2016-2017. But those numbers (if you trust them) do not take into account is the capital appreciation of the Cavaliers as an asset.

According to Forbes the Cavs were worth $515 million in 2014, and then skyrocketed to a value of $915 million in 2015. Much of this was due to Steve Ballmer’s purchase of the Clippers. It nearly doubled the perceived value of every NBA team, but regardless, the Cavs have appreciated to a valuation of $1.2 billion in February of 2017. I bet it will be $1.3 billion when Forbers evaluates it in 2018. How much of this is due to LeBron James and the second highest local Television ratings in the NBA? That is a hard number to quantify. It is hard to feel bad for an owner crying poormouth who posted a $58 million operating loss, but a capital gain of at least $140 million, not to mention how much dead money the Cavs were paying David Blatt and Mike Brown. Rich guys always want you to think they’re poorer than they are.

See the little dip between 2010 and 2011? That’s when ‘Bron left. So yeah, Dan Gilbert is such an egotistical dope that he dumped David Griffin, and is alienating LeBron James enough to make him leave the Cavaliers again which will clearly diminish the capital value of the Cavaliers. So don’t tell me how much money he’s spending. The dude is going to make an enormous profit on the Cavaliers if and when he sells the team, and he’s made a profit every single year.  Now he’s cutting off his nose to spite his face.

How is he cutting off his nose to spite his face? By driving this team’s roster into a Lake Erie. Dan Gilbert and no one else is responsible for the worst trade in the NBA since the Oklahoma City Thunder traded future hall-of-famer James Harden to the Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round draft picks, and a second. OKC got fleeced, and Dan Gilbert didn’t get nearly as much as the Thunder. With chances to acquire Paul George, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon… the Cavs acquired the shortest player in the NBA who the Cavs had obliterated in the playoffs the prior two seasons, because Dan Gilbert likes short guys.

The Cavs had a chance to back out of the trade when Isaiah Thomas’ physical came back much more concerning than expected. Now it is completely obvious they should have and that Isaiah Thomas may never be the player he was. Undaunted, Dan Gilbert pressed on with his idiocy, and here we are, full steam ahead with the most poorly conceived starting lineup in the league that has shown repeatedly it is incapable of winning NBA games. Yet, Isaiah Thomas and J.R. Smith keep playing because either Gilbert won’t fire an incompetent (or intentionally losing) Lue, or Dan is calling the shots on who plays.

It’s this tweet, that came out from Will Burge, though, that seems to confirm every thing we’ve been suspecting about Dan Gilbert this year. I know it confirms my worldview.

How did Gilbert turn from apparent fun loving family man who helped transformed downtown Cleveland and Detroit to a reported booze hound who rolls into every event looking like the president of the Nick Nolte mugshot fan club while simultaneously sabotaging his own team and the greatest player of all time? Because he’s turned into an egotistical schmuck who has to destroy his toy because he doesn’t feel like he got enough credit for the Cavs championship and wants more people to kiss his a** for spending the money  (when it clearly wasn’t going to break him and might have been a brilliant long term investment).

And “The Jerry Jones of Basketball!?” It’s telling that the guy Gilbert reportedly idolizes hasn’t won a thing in 23 years, which is about when Jerry started calling the shots.

LeBron James is not without his sins, and he’s got just as big of an ego. His lack of effort appears to be just as immature as Gilbert’s lack of leadership. They both seem like they’re entitled babies taking credit for everything that went right and shifting blame for everything going wrong. But here’s the difference. There are plenty of rich people. There have only been two players this good in the history of the NBA. And LeBron James happens to have been born and raised right here in Northeast Ohio. If Gilbert chases off LeBron James again, he’ll never be considered more than an egotistical carpetbagger who wrote the checks and couldn’t be happy with success.

I’ll leave it to Carson Zagger to express the sentiment like only a guy who grew up here can.

While I agree Gilbert never gets enough credit for his limitless spending… If his meddling were to result in LeBron leaving then I’d never forgive Gilbert. This franchise will never experience as high of a high as having LeBron, potential GOAT, Kid From Akron, leading us to title contention every year. I think it chafes Gilbert that no matter how successful/rich he is, LeBron will always have the spotlight. Gilbert delusionally thinks of himself as the protagonist of the Cavs’ story.

Tom Pestak: Let me quote you here: 

But those numbers (if you trust them) do not take into account is the capital appreciation of the Cavaliers as an asset.

To the first half of your sentence: No, I don’t know enough about the Cavaliers finances to speculate on whether or not their reported losses should be taken at face value.  To the second half of your sentence: Well why in the hell would they?  “Capital Appreciation of the Cavaliers as an asset?”  Nate, I see you’ve learned all of the wrong lessons from the housing collapse.  People taking out loans on the “capital appreciation of their homes as an asset.”  That’s all well and good, until people aren’t willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money.  Side note, please tell me you didn’t buy Bitcoin at 20K a month ago after reading all those articles about how it would be worth over a million dollars in the near future.  Steve Ballmer’s willingness to pay Two Billion dollars for the Clippers has had a ripple effect on the league.  And the chickens are coming home to roost.  Instead of the Brinks truck Isaiah Thomas thinks is backing up to him he’s going to have a smart car filled with Schrute Bucks.

No, the Cavaliers, and Dan Gilbert, should absolutely not factor in the “capital appreciation of the Cavaliers as an asset.” when deciding how many tens of millions in ACTUAL, DUE AT THE END OF THE MONTH luxury tax bills to fit.  Nor when considering how many tens of millions they can afford to shell out to Klutch to keep King James appeased.  They have to be somewhat realistic about actual costs compared to revenue.  Seriously, given your ridiculous position on the economics here, I’m surprised you haven’t demanded Gilbert make all Cavs games and concessions free to the public.  I applaud you for taking the time to put some graphics in this piece.  It’s lovely that you trust the “Capital Valuation” of NBA teams.  That might end up being the single most misleading thing that will be said in either this piece or the comments that follow.

No one really knows the Capital Valuation of teams since teams are very rarely bought and sold.  The Ballmer purchase was the perfect example.  Everyone was wrong about how much the Clippers were worth because no one could imagine someone would pay more than double what anyone thought ANY franchise was worth, much less the lowly Clippers.  Nate, I’m glad you are subconsciously so bullish on American Capitalism, but I can certainly envision a future reality where someone does NOT pay a billion dollars for the Cavs if LeBron leaves (or even if he stays, quite frankly).  Anyway, thanks for that distraction – at least you want to talk dollars and cents.  Maybe stick to the actual bills that Gilbert has been footing.

Nate, herein lies my biggest grievance with the anti-Gilbert mob – an eagerness to bury the guy with speculation, conspiracy theories, and a lot of results-based criticism instead of process-based criticism over things that are often assigned to him without proof that it’s on him.  And all this happens, with nary a mention of the actual things that we know Gilbert has done.

Says Nate:

It’s this tweet, that came out from Will Burge, though, that seems to confirm every thing we’ve been suspecting about Dan Gilbert this year. I know it confirms my worldview.

I mean, this isn’t much of a duels since you are literally bragging about doing the thing that I’m accusing everyone of doing (which, if you were dispassionate about the Cavs you’d recognize this as toxic).  Some dude tweeting about something confirms your worldview.  You’re better than that, Nate.  Cavs:TheBlog is better than that.  Get that weak stuff outta here.

We know all the investments Dan Gilbert has made into the organization.  We know all the outrageous salaries he has taken on for dead contracts if only to pay a king’s ransom to try to expedite the rebuild process after his good faith efforts in 1.0 were rewarded with LeBron taking his talents to South Beach.  The dude paid $40 million dollars for a season of Shaq just so that the Cavs, should they meet Dwight Howard again in the playoffs, could avoid double teaming him.

Let me just swat this into the 3rd row.

“basically installed Koby Altman as a puppet to fulfill his basketball whims.”

Altman was the next in line.  He wasn’t “installed”.  This carries on a legacy dating back to Danny Ferry.  Chris Grant (Ferry protege) assumes the position.  David Griffin (Under Grant) assumes the position.  Now we’ve moved on to Koby.  You don’t actually know why Gilbert and Griffin couldn’t come to a contract extension.  Maybe Griffin is an salty prick in real life.  Maybe he laid out a 5-year plan that Gilbert wasn’t comfortable with.  Maybe he wanted to do basketball operation things that Gilbert felt would harm the James/Klutch drama queens. WE DON’T KNOW.  Both men have had ample opportunity to explain why it happened, neither wants to.

So you can’t really say whether or not this in a vacuum was even a bad decision, much less a power play by Gilbert to install a puppet.  You also have no idea how much day to day control Koby Altman actually has, so you’re assigning all GM related duties to Gilbert.  But you don’t know if Gilbert is responsible for 100% of that, or 1% of that.  Basically, we can all assume he at least has veto power since, ya know, that’s the benefit of owning something.  Beyond that, his level of involvement is speculation.  Who are the writers sources that want us to believe Gilbert is a meddling fool?  Other GMs, players like Chris Paul, agents, and people that want to make the organization look incompetent.  You know how the NBA works.  So much crap spewed for a purpose, with little or no basis in reality.

With that, I’m going to lump your entire “He (meaning Gilbert) went out and did these GM things – therefore he sucks” sentences into one big bin that says “You can’t pin that on him.  You don’t know what is going on.”  LeBron has spent the better part of his career being blamed for being a coach killer.  David Griffin has made it his personal quest to proclaim to the world that LeBron was not in charge of any personnel decisions.  They “had dialogues” and all that democratic-sounding stuff.  But Griffin will have you know, despite the narrative, it’s just not true that LeBron had anything to do with player or coach movement.  Well, whom do you believe?  Here’s the safe answer: NEITHER.  Say it with me Nate: “I. DON’T. KNOW.”  (Dirty secret, Nate.  The media?  They don’t know either.  The people that do know have every incentive to either stay quiet, lie, or distort the truth.  They have no incentive to peel back the curtain on how their organizations are run.)

But for the sake of argument, let’s presume that Gilbert has been trekking down to his special Rich Guy super console to push all the buttons.  Look at your criticism of him!!  You’re giving him props for Jeff Green.  AFTER THE FACT.  Jeff Green may have been the most hated signing of all this offseason!  You’re killing him for the Kyrie Trade AFTER THE FACT.  Hold on.  Let me finish.  Yes, we many of us “killed” the Kyrie trade.  But on what grounds?  Why did we hate it?  We hated it because we thought Kyrie’s ceiling against the Warriors was greater than Isaiah Thomas’.  EG boldly said he didn’t care about anything else.  All he knew was, IT would be unplayable against the Warriors and Kyrie was very playable.

The implication there is that there was some potential goodness to the IT signing.  And where was it most likely this potential goodness would manifest itself?  The regular season!  We all expected Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder would make this team fun to watch again.  We thought their combination of motor and toughness would mesh with our midwestern sensibilities.  We wondered aloud how Thomas’ downhill decision might unlock LeBron.  None of us could have imagined Crowder would regress to the level he has or that Thomas would be so incredibly useless on OFFENSE! (forget defense!). So, instead of piling on when things are at their abject worse, let’s recall our offseason analysis immediately after the acquisitions were made.  I’ll be the first to admit, Nate – everything I thought about this offseason has been 180 degrees off.  Here I’ll chronicle my expectations and the subsequent reality (which was shared by many):

Tom’s Offseason Analysis

Prognosis on Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving: IT will give the Cavs toughness and his motor will inspire the Cavs to play hard all the time, unlike Kyrie who is a lazy regular season player.

Reality: Kyrie is trying on defense for the first time in his career while IT is sabotaging the team at both ends and is must be completely overcome by a harrowing development: he is staring down the barrel of losing upwards of a hundred million dollars this offseason, and there is little time left to salvage his dreams of a beeping Brinks truck.

Prognosis on Jae Crowder: Exactly what the Cavs needed.  Maybe more important than IT as a piece in this trade.  Gives the Cavs length and toughness to help improve their awful defense.  Documented success against Kevin Durant.  Great off ball player – should be a great complement to LeBron.

Reality: He’s been terrible, the Cavs defense has never been worse.  I feel flashbacks to Luol Deng coming on board to improve the defense and culture during the #SeasonOfHuh.

Prognosis on Dwyane Wade: We’re going to just hate him.  You saw what happened in Chicago right?  He’s got nothing left.  Rose is a much better offseason addition than Wade.

Reality: Wade was crucial to the Cavs shoring up their bench lineups after he agreed to take that role.  He’s faltered of late, but he hasn’t been the problem.  And Rose, yeah, you made some good points.

Prognosis on Jeff Green: “AAAAAHHH MAKE IT STOP!!!!!”  Or, to actually quote Ben Werth:

Jeez. You’ve got to be kidding me. Let’s just sign a bunch of players I can’t frickin stand. If I have to watch one minute of Jeff Green, Shump and Rose,…. %#@$

Reality: Green has been fine, good at times.  For the league minimum, adding Green had paid off.

Prognosis on Jose Calderon: “really?  …really?  This dude was done like three years ago.  He won’t even be able to play.”

Reality: Calderon has been serviceable.

Basically, every thing that I (and many of us) predicted has been flat out incorrect, and at times, the exact opposite of reality.  Not one of us sat around podcasting back in the summer saying things like “we might not make the playoffs now and are going to regularly lose by 30 at home on national TV because Isaiah Thomas is going to be the most unplayable player in the league by a country mile.”  We said “ugh…swapping IT for Kyrie doesn’t make us better against the Warriors.”  That’s it.

Nate, I know you particularly hated this offseason on the grounds of process, not reality, so I’ll cut you some slack.  But the vast majority of people are just shamelessly piling on.  Windhorst back in the summer praised the Cavs moves.  Some went as far to say the Cavs got the better end of the deal with the Celtics.

Let’s talk about letting Kyrie walk.  I was a proponent of calling his bluff and was shocked that they traded him, much less to the only team that could be considered a conference rival.  That said, we really don’t know what happened.  Now some are saying Kyrie threatened to have season ending surgery.  Remember when all LeBron did was complain about not having a backup point guard last year?  Could Gilbert have just been trying to make sure chemistry was good, the backup PG position was accounted for (in spades) and that LeBron wouldn’t have to take on such a outsized regular season burden?  If those were the goals, what the Cavs did actually does address those things.  Who knows!? Remember, the Cavs got burned by Mo Williams just the year before.

Let’s talk about David Griffin the wizard GM that never should have been let go.  I could easily make the case that David Griffin is much more responsible for the Cavs current predicament than Dan Gilbert.  It was Griffin that didn’t have the foresight to sign Delly for like 3-4 million a year when he could have.  He lost a super valuable rotation player in free agency.  We gave 10 million a year to freaking Shumpert.  And then the Cavs struggled all next season without a viable backup PG.  He bid against himself for the services of Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith, who are so useless this season it is pathetic.

Wow, reading that back to myself, why aren’t we just blaming Klutch for this whole thing?  There’s about as much evidence of their toxic impact as there is of anyone.  Let’s talk about moves for Richard Jefferson, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye.  Did the Cavs ever seriously address defense through player acquisition?  Hell no, they did not.  I know the Cavs right now are a dumpster fire in every facet of the game, but I still believe they can work out some issues on the offensive end.  There is nothing that can cure what ails them defensively, and that has been going on for years.  Maybe Dan Gilbert didn’t think David Griffin was the right person to correct that issue.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that there is no guarantee that the Cavs wind up being huge winners this offseason had Griffin been at the helm.  We just don’t know.

No GM that is impartial and that we have a reason to trust (basically like when Steve Kerr went from the FO to the broadcast booth) has come out and said “Ya know, we were ready to hand over Paul George (or equivalent) for a sack of potatoes to our Lord and Savior David Griffin but after Dan Gilbert put him to death we decided to divest from the Cavs.”  So stop with the “what could have been” stuff.  Windhorst loves to dip his toe in this alternate history stuff while giving himself a hedge by saying “Look, who knows, but LeBron is sitting around wondering how all these top tier guys moved teams and none of them came to the Cavs.”  We don’t actually know why certain NBA GMs would not deal with the Cavs (even though everyone assumes it’s because David Griffin can just charm your pants off and he was gone).  But to the question of why top tier guys aren’t coming to Cleveland, maybe we can start by asking why top tier guys are LEAVING Cleveland.  Take a bow, King James.

Kyrie didn’t leave because of Dan Gilbert.  Kyrie wanted to leave WHEN David Griffin was still there, perhaps, partially BECAUSE of David Griffin.  Griff admitted as much, that he was prepared to deal Kyrie in the event that he was unhappy and wanted out.  Griff started calling teams greasing the skids for such an event.  Depending on which version of Kyrie’s story you want to believe, such as the one where he was upset/insulted that the Cavs were willing to trade him….that was under David Griffin!  Remember!  Both of these things can’t be true: Koby Altman was asleep at the switch / Koby Altman concocted a bunch of Kyrie trades which pissed Kyrie off.

Lots of players don’t like playing with LeBron and even less like the idea of coming to play with LeBron only to watch him build up a million secret handshakes and then leave them behind.  Remember how shell shocked Mo Williams was?  LeBron’s loyalty does not extend to his current teammates – it didn’t even extend to Dwyane Wade in 2014.  Now, with another impending free agency move, what players want to go to Cleveland of their own volition?

And think about the effect this tension has on the Cavs front office.  They have LeBron James still in his prime, Kevin Love still in his prime, Isaiah Thomas coming off an All-NBA season, Kyle Korver, and about six other legitimate rotation players that have some length.  If the Cavs were simply struggling and LeBron’s free agency wasn’t looming, they’d have ways to work through this.  They always have because they have an owner that consistently opens up his wallet every time one of his GMs comes to him with a wild plan to take on a bunch more salary to get marginally better.

The Cavs should not be operating from a position of such intense weakness right now, Nate!  You can argue that they are because of the trade for Isaiah Thomas, but remember, none of us thought the Cavs would be here – we worried about Thomas in June.  You can argue that the dumpster only remains ablaze because David Griffin would have pulled a fire-extinguisher-wielding rabbit out of his hat and put this mess to bed but he is not here and Gilbert is to blame for letting that happen.  That’s fine, reasonable even.  But the biggest reason they operating from such a position of weakness is because of LeBron James.  And every other GM in the league smells blood.

If you ask me, there’s a ton of blame to go around for the current Cavs predicament.  I place more at the feet of LeBron James and David Griffin than I do Dan Gilbert, and that’s because I have much more evidence of what they do/have done that has created the current situation.  Maybe it is “all Gilbert’s fault” as you tweeted the other day.  But none of us have enough evidence to know that – we can only speculate.

Nate:

Speculation as you call it (or results based analysis) is all that legacy is, Tom! Every single public figure is tried in the court of public opinion. Because in a democracy and in human experience perception is reality. And yes, I know I don’t know exactly what’s going on in the organization. As Colin McGowan once wrote, we’re just “amateur documentarians.” We see through a glass darkly. But we don’t need to be Sybill Trelawney to see that the Cavs stink on ice right now and that unless some major reshuffling is done, the Cavs will shuffle back off into mediocrity or worse. And it doesn’t matter if Koby Altman is an “installed” figurehead (according to every report we’ve read) or is really the idiot version of Daryl Morey, because the owner is ultimately responsible for the product that is on the floor and if he wants to make changes, then changes will be made.

And yes, maybe I am quite invested in the incredibly poor way the Kyrie Irving trade was handled because I wasn’t blindsided because I and the basketball minds I most respect thought adding Isaiah Thomas was an awful idea. And yes, no one knew Isaiah would be this bad, but this is part and parcel to every horrible decision the Cavs have made since Dan Gilbert has owned the team.

They ignore flags more crimson than China’s: Tristan Thompson having no offensive skills; Anthony Bennett being an injury prone, out of shape, asthmatic, short-sighted, lazy, injured, completely unprepared for the NBA – let alone being the first pick of the draft – player from lousy conference with no NBA position; the NBA salary cap bump; the NBA salary cap squeeze; Iman Shumpert being an injury prone player who makes terrible at processing situations on-court; J.R. Smith being a guy you don’t want to give a big contract to. Yes, some of these decisions were impossible to avoid (especially the last one) but despite the things the Cavs have done well, (drafting Kyrie, trading for Kevin Love, signing Jeff Green and Kyle Korver), they seem to have a process designed to to make bad decisions, and the worst in franchise history was to trade Kyrie Irving for a five-foot-nine point guard the Cavs spent the previous two seasons destroying in the playoffs, who can’t play off the ball, who had a bad hip, needed surgery and burned all his bridges in every town but Boston.

What’s the one constant in the Cavs shooting around 40% from the field as an organization since Dan Gilbert bought the team? Dan Gilbert. But he refuses to take himself out of the decision making process because he’s writing the checks. I would almost wager that a cheaper owner would make better decisions because he’d be forced to live with the consequences of his actions rather than being able to spend his way out of them. A willingness to throw spend money is not necessarily a virtue, Tom. It may just be a crutch.

But despite your bluster and distraction, you’ve not addressed the unassailable crux of my argument. Your arguments are as antiquated as the two spaces behind your periods. Dan will never win this battle with fans and analysts because LeBron James is a local kid who can put the damn ball in the basket with a force and wizardry unlike anyone we’ve ever seen. James is at a minimum one of the five best basketball players in NBA history, and the most important American athlete of the 21st century. Dan Gilbert is just some rich dude with a penchant for tiny point guards.

It’s amazing, though, that both these guys are so much alike. Both are self made men from the midwest who’ve kept their own counsel and have been amazing at making money and propelling their organizations to the highest heights. Except their egos won’t allow them to sit down shake hands and figure out how to keep this thing going, because both men have an unbelievable ability to to be self absorbed passive aggressive jerks whose body language and me-first actions (or more recently, lack of action) can bely their public statements on work ethic, leadership, and team-building. Yet they both still want to be adored.

I know there has been a lot of consternation by the commentariat here and in the CtB offices about the future of this team and whether it’s worth watching this slow march of awfulness, versus competing year in and year out for a championship, versus a full rebuild. But the truth is this, Dan Gilbert has opened the check book before and if he stops doing it and competing for championships with the biggest and best athlete star this region’s ever seen, folks here will never forgive him. If he wants to be a beloved force of change and be a better owner than Jerry Jones then he and LeBron James still need each other.

LeBron wants “max money,” and unless he waives his no trade clause and moves somewhere else now, only place he can get it and compete for championships is in Cleveland. The Lakers and the few teams with cap room next summer can’t sign him and enough other pieces to take out the Warriors or the Rockets. Sure, LeBron could go to one of those two squads, but he’s not getting max money. The NBA salary structure won’t allow it. But the Cavs, plus a point guard and a wing certainly can compete for championships in the coming years. If there was ever anyone worth risking $200 million on to continue to be the best player in the NBA till 38, it’s LeBron James.

There’s still time. The Cavaliers have two days to the NBA trade deadline, and in a year where prying draft picks from teams is as tough as cracking open your iced over car door in February, the Cavs have picks to move, expiring contracts, and LeBron Freaking James. If they want to compete for the next five years, and if @CavsDan wants to make Jerry Jones the Dan Gilbert of the NFL, then the Cavs need to move Isaiah Thomas, find a guard, a wing, and a big while keeping the Brooklyn pick to add another star this summer, and possibly grab a new coach. It can be done.

And I know. According to you, my knowledge of economics could be compared to Sloth from the Goonies and his understanding of quantum physics. Cause, you know, the entire model of every startup in Silicon Valley is based on the value of the company, not operating profit, and that no corporation ever flipped out because they were making money but their company’s value kept dropping. And I’m sure those dunderheads at Forbes couldn’t know what they’re talking about. But please excuse me while I open up my Baby Ruth and opine.

Yes, Dan Gilbert will keep having to write big checks, but if he can avoid the temptation to overpay Klutch guys and make intelligent basketball decisions (or hire someone who will), he can get to a point where he’s making some scratch while fielding a team that can compete night in and night out (or at least at playoff time) for years to come. If he doesn’t want to do this, he should do it anyway, re-sign LeBron James and then sell the team. Tilman Fertitta just bought the Rockets for $2.2 billion in non-Schrute bucks THAT HE WAS ACTUALLY WILLING TO PAY TO OWN THE TEAM. In this market an NBA team featuring LeBron James on the roster for the next five years should be worth north of $1.5 billion REAL DOLLARS.

 

If Dan Gilbert wants to keep flaking out on his franchise and in order start posting moderate operating profits (woo hoo!) then by all means, he should keep trotting out a five-foot-nine point guard with a bad hip and a coach who has shown for three years that he won’t play lineups that outscore other teams, and keep pissing off LeBron James, so that he Can leave, the Cavs can have a lower luxury tax bill, and that the value of his franchise can drop a cool $200 million, and the Cavs can go back to playing guys like Smardo Samuels and we can debate the question of Danny Green versus Manny Harris (THE ANSWER WAS ALWAYS DANNY GREEN!!!)

Comic Dans spent his way into this corner and now he doesn’t want to spend his way out. He’s built up a reputation as an owner who spends in pursuit of a championship. If he doesn’t want to do that, he should sell the team and make a tidy huge profit. Why is he satisfied with one trophy? The Warriors and Rockets aren’t unbeatable with LeBron James, but you’ve got to put a team and organization together that can compete. Otherwise, Dan Gilbert,  you’re just one of 28 other guys. You are the Jerry Jones of basketball, in that you’re not going to win anything for at least 23 more years, and you’ll singularly be known as the guy who pushed away the greatest star with the greatest story in the history of Northeast Ohio… twice.

… BUT THE CAVS DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT! When the Cavs won a championship, Gilbert and James would barely mention each others names. The time has come to stop acting like self entitled babies and bury the hatchet. It’s on both of you, Dan and LeBron: you two schmucks who are more alike than you would ever care to admit. Get in a room and figure out how to start winning again. It’s the only thing that’s going to make both of you happy.

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RC Kim
Member
11 months 16 days ago
One thing I don’t really understand — how can Dan Gilbert ever lose money on the Cavs? We have no idea how the entity is structured but I assume it is an S corporation or a LP. In that case operating losses should be tax deductible from Gilbert’s personal income, and the dude makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year. If he has a bad year he can carry the credits forward for years. If the Cavs are incorporated then Trump’s new tax cuts are a bonanza for Gilbert, and he can presumably offset any tax credits across affiliated companies in his vast business empire. I assume Gilbert holds his ownership shares in a trust so that when he dies it can go straight to his kids without them having to pay any estate tax or go through probate, but if he/they ever sell the Cavs the capital gains tax rate is basically half the personal income tax rate. So the increased valuation of the Cavs since he bought the team is worth two bucks for every dollar of profit. Obviously I am not his accountant, but it seems annual operating losses of even in the high eight figures… Read more »
Gordon
Guest
Gordon
11 months 16 days ago

Not defending Gilbert, but hard for me to side with LeBron. He wants us to continue to mortgage our future and win now, but, as has been the case always, he refuses to sign a long-term deal here.

Sorry, but can’t have your cake and eat it too. If LeBron wants us to use the Brooklyn pick to go for it now, then sign an extension.

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago

This isn’t about the Brooklyn pick. It’s personal. I’m willing to bet anything that there was a conversation between them, in some way, that came down to Gilbert telling Lebron he’s just a player and do what he’s told, and Lebron telling Gilbert he doesn’t know anything about basketball.

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago

Me too, minus the points and the rebound.

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Just listened to Jason Lloyd on 92.3 and I get the impression that he believes that Gilbert nixed the Kyrie for PG/Bledsoe trade, because Dan didn’t want the chance of losing LeBron and PG for nothing. If so, that’s pretty dumb.

Vintage
Guest
Vintage
11 months 16 days ago

He could also still lose James and IT?

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago

He’s an investor. He forgets that the point of sports is a championship, not simply asset valuation.

Cory Hughey
Editor
11 months 16 days ago

Absolutely loved this, and your back and forth was better than the current sand bagging on Gilbert that is everywhere else. LeBron’s finger prints are all over everything that is wrong with this team from the bloated deals his Klutch pals got, to ignoring coaching, to refusing to commit.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

I wonder what we can get for Kevin Love in the off-season. I imagine he’s not resigning with LeBron leaving.

warriorsfan
Guest
warriorsfan
11 months 16 days ago

Kevin Love for Marc Gasol still makes sense, that way a C plays C position. Make deep run into playoffs and then trade Marc Gasol next year or make playoffs with him while developing the picks. Marc Gasol still has couple of years left, he would be all star in east.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Couldn’t agree more:

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

I’m not sure if it’s possible. But if Houston were to do a sign and trade what pieces would you want back for LeBron (in the off-season)?

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago
Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago

I think it’s very telling that Lebron won’t waive his no-trade clause. That tells me one of two things: (1) He never wants to play anywhere else (because of image or because he doesn’t want to) or
(2) He is going to leave and is so pissed at Gilbert that he’s not going to let him recoup any assets off a trade.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Well I think it’s appropriate to start investing more time to scouting these draft picks.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Mike Podracky
Guest
Mike Podracky
11 months 16 days ago

This article suggests that Gilbert’s bungling has almost assured that James would not stay a Cav. Lloyd has as good sources as anyone, and the piece is quite damming for cavsdan.

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Yeah I agree. A lot of this was pretty well known as well.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

MikeO
Guest
MikeO
11 months 16 days ago

Cavs may be talking to Utah about Rubio…I’d take him. Is he short enough to play point guard for Dan, though?

JoeyB
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JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago

Please god yes.

JMay
Editor
11 months 16 days ago

Source?

MikeO
Guest
MikeO
11 months 16 days ago

Just a Hoop Central tweet…I can’t vouch for it, but hope it’s true…god, I wish they’d move IT…

JMay
Editor
11 months 16 days ago

To me, the biggest indictment of Gilbert and his inability to run a competent organization is in the four years LeBron was gone. Yes, the King vacated the throne with nary a warning, but that wouldn’t restrict Gilbert from installing people to run a stable, albeit significantly diminished organization. It’s not that those teams weren’t good. We all knew they wouldn’t be post-LeBron. But they were completely dysfunctional top to bottom. Yea, sure, we drafted Kyrie, but the other picks were busts. The culture was broken. They brought in Luol Deng who promptly said “This s*** is horrible”. I’m paraphrasing but you get my point.

Don’t get me wrong, I hold LeBron at fault, too. And for all of the same reasons that have been covered in exhaust. But in the end, I side with Carson as someone who is born and raised NE Ohio. If LeBron leaves, for any reason, at least part of me will feel like Gilbert is the one who pushed him out. It might not be fair but that’s the reality.

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago

Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler were both available in the 2011 draft, the time the Cavs had the 1st and 4th pick overall. Maybe the Cavs could have gotten at least one of them if Gilbert is half as smart as he thinks he is.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

I don’t blame Gilbert of the Cavs GM for whiffing on both of those players, as half the franchises in the league also made that mistake.

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago

Agreed Arch. I just couldn’t help thinking that since Dan Gilbert likes to think he is outsmarting everyone by supposedly thinking out of the box, why didn’t it happen at that time.

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

I blame Jonathan Givony. Those draft express videos of Anthony Bennett made him look like the next Charles Barkley.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Great comment.

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago
I think it’s both fair and the reality. Lebron is basically begging Gilbert to give him a reason to stay, and Gilbert refuses. I mean, seriously, Lebron has maybe 2 or 3 good years left. This is it for him. Gilbert can screw around after that. The window is rapidly closing, and Gilbert decides he wants to be the smartest guy in the room and get into a d*#k measuring contest with the Lebron James. Hint: he’s going to lose that contest, literally and figuratively. Every GM in the league is salivating at the thought of negotiating a trade with Gilbert. Danny Ainge probably had to mute the call so Dan wouldn’t hear is guffawing when he wanted IT, who Ainge probably wanted to cut outright. There were at least 5 other trades that appear to have been available at one time or another that weren’t made. Gilbert traded for, LITERALLY, the worst point guard in the whole freaking league. He scored a bunch of points last year on a team with not shooting and is a terrible defender. The exact opposite of what we needed. Oh yeah, and he was, and still is, severely injured. Keeping Kyrie and letting… Read more »
Jason
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Jason
11 months 16 days ago
What? You guys nuked my post? Snowflakes. I will try again. Good debate & good piece. Let me start by saying I am not a fan of Dan Gilbert. I do not like his business practices nor his political views. But I think blaming all this on him is a bit too much. Plenty of blame to go around: FO, Gilbert, LeBron, Lue, players. Gilbert deserves credit for the spending spree, checking his ego to enable the Return, and pulling the trigger on the Blatt/Lue thing. He deserves blame for his inability to create a stable organization, poor HC hires, not checking his ego and retaining Griffin, and letting Klutch screw up the team. Bron deserves blame for empowering Klutch to extort, holding the team hostage with his continual failure to commit & the issues with recruitment that causes, doing the same with the Nets pick, seeming to fail to give max effort consistently for the 3rd time as a Cav (2010 Boston, 2015 first half), running Kyrie, and generally being a passive aggressive prima donna drama queen. I am not a huge fan of LeBron either. But he is still a top 9 all-timer and probably the best SF… Read more »
EvilGenius
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

ChrisKorvalier
Guest
ChrisKorvalier
11 months 16 days ago

Channing!

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

LMAO

EvilGenius
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

Probably a mistake…

Raffy22
Guest
Raffy22
11 months 16 days ago

Another thing to think about: Gilbert is a seasoned businessman (or is supposed to be). He’s the one responsible for putting together a strong organization and showing great leadership in maximizing the potential of a franchise. LeBron was 18 when he joined the Cavs and has 30 years less life experience than Gilbert. If you’re Gilbert, you should have the presence of mind to realize that LeBron is a primadonna, put the right structure around him to reign in his ego, and then help him grow. Phil Jackson and Pat Riley were able to do these things. Granted, Jackson was only a coach, and didn’t run ops, but still. In contrast, Gilbert failed miserably. LeBron is a f’ing handful to deal with, but Gilbert should have done better with the hand that he was dealt.

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago
Maybe you have forgotten that when Gilbert acquired the Cavs in Lebron’s second season , they were well on their way to a play-off spot. Gilbert’s meddlesome ways that include passing notes on whom to play to then Cavs coach Paul Silas effectively kick them back to the lottery. Maybe you have forgotten that Gilbert, true to his meddlesome nature, hired a coach first before hiring a GM who would have been better at getting the best coach for a young phenom. Maybe you have forgotten that in the 4 years Lebron was out, the Cavs set the record for a losing streak, had the worst 4-year win-loss record in the league. They were so bad they had 3 top overall picks and many lottery picks in those 4 years yet could not even sniff a play-off berth even once. When a club chooses Anthony Bennet for top pick and rehire a coach who have proven to be inept multiple times, you should get an idea why the organization and its leader/owner is so bad. Maybe you have also forgotten that in those 4 years, the Cavs hired 3 coaches and 2 GMs (3 if you include Dan Ferry who… Read more »
Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

Ty Lue won a championship. Two years later we want his head on a platter.

These coaches that the Cavs have hired are not incompetent. You guys act like Dan Gilbert is hiring his drinking buddies to coach the Cavs. Brown is very well respected around the NBA and before he was paid the most of any assistant coach ever, Ty Lue was a hot commodity. David Blatt was widely seen as the best international coach.

If turnover = dysfunction then you can have it. In the NBA things change to fast to stand pat when every year is championship or we lose LeBron level Defcon 1.

Does everyone in Miami hate Erik Spoelstra?

Guy goes 2-2 in NBA finals when he was favored in all four of them, LeBron walks, they’ve done nothing since then. Yet people still think he’s a good coach.

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago
Tom, Dan Gilbert would have probably been better off hiring his drinking buddies than Mike Brown. And if hiring Mike Brown was a dumb move, hiring him again is multiple times dumber. People like to blame Brown’s dismissal to Lebron but he lasted 5 years in the first Lebron era. Brown could only last a lockout season and 5 games under the death stare of Kobe and the Lakers. In the Kyrie era, Brown could only last a season despite a guaranteed 4 (5?) year contract. Ron Artest calls Mike Brown a video guy, clearly a condenscending moniker. Andrew Bynum in a Cav unform hoisted a shot from the parking lot with Brown at the helm. I am not sure how many we’ll respected coaches were submitted to these. From what I know Ettore Messina, not David Blatt, is the best international coach and even he has not gotten any head coaching job. And if Blatt is so good, how come no other NBA team is scrambling for his service since his dismissal in 2016? Erik Spoelstra is better than any coach the Cavs ever had in the 21st century. And no, the Heat weren’t favored to win the 2014… Read more »
Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

OK I don’t care what Ron Artest says.

The Lakers are dysfunctional so nothing they do say anything to me.

The Warriors had Mike Brown running the show for most of last year.

Clearly the guy knows something about coaching.

My point is that every coach has his moments and then is lambasted. The LeBron effect plus the Cleveland psyche makes every Cleveland coach awful, whether or not they were.

Maybe after the Malcolm Butler incident we’ll all sleep soundly saying “[whew] I knew Belicheck wasn’t a good coach after all.”

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago

Brown was babysitting, something Luke Walton did the year before with greater success at a lesser talent (he didn’t have Kevin Durant). Moreover, Walton was younger and had less experience coaching.

JMay
Editor
11 months 16 days ago

I think plenty of arguments have been made that the Cavs won the championship in spite of Lue’s ineptitude. Is he likely a better coach than most of the general population? Sure. But when pitted against the best of the best, he’s found wanting.

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

I was a Ty Lue hater before it was cool. It was a good hire as an assistant, and Griffin promoted him and fired Blatt.

JMay
Editor
11 months 16 days ago

If only LeBron respected Blatt…

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago
hey Peter: That’s an interesting point about hiring Mike Brown before hiring Danny Ferry cus Ferry would have put the right guy in place. You’ll recall it was Gilbert’s desire to fire Mike Brown that led Danny Ferry to decide not to re-sign a contract as GM – because he wanted to keep Mike Brown around. Name me a coach in the NBA that is successful all the time? There aren’t any. The ones that play smart Xs and Os get exposed when they run into buzzsaws and they can’t scheme their way around it. And sometimes they are too set in their ways to adapt. The ones that are the player whisperers can elevate their teams, but they have a much bigger problem with consistency. And after a while, players tune the coaches out. At one time Doc Rivers was a terrible coach, then a championship coach, then an underachieving coach. Mike D’Antoni was a genius, then he sucked, now he’s a genius again. Mike Brown was a well-respected Spurs disciple. Then he was Mr. Potato Head. Then he took a team to the Finals 3 years before they were ready before following that up with back to back… Read more »
Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago
Tom, I will put it this way- if you have a young Babe Ruth-talent level, would you put his development to an apprentice who’ll probably experiment on him? Because that’s exactly what Dan Gilbert did to Lebron when he hired Mike Brown. I know hindsight is always 20/20, but why would hire a coach who advocates a painfully ugly crawling offense when you have the greatest force in the open court (passes like Magic and finishes like Dr. J in Karl Malon’s body). In hindsight, Lebron shouldn’t have stayed or demanded a better coach. He should have done a Magic Johnson circa 1981-82. Magic then didn’t want the set-it up offense being installed by then Lakers coach Paul Westhead and preferred high-octane basketball. The Lakers gave-in and Magic was booed by the rest of the league. But guess what, the Lakers won that season and would win three more including back-to-back titles. By the way, Westhead won one for the Lakers in 1980, better than anything Mike Brown has ever done. And I can’t believe how you would attribute success to Mike Brown’s nannying during Kerr’s absence when just a season ago Luke Walton (who then didn’t even have an… Read more »
Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

Peter, I think it’s useful to consider the NBA during this time.

The Pistons beat the Lakers. The Spurs knocked off the Suns in the playoffs every single year. The Miami Heat were more defensive-minded than the Mavericks. Then the Cavs made the finals with defense, rebounding, and LeBron for offense. Then the Ubuntu Celtics beat the lakers with defense.

It’s great that we’re in an era where three of the greatest shooters in NBA history got on the same team and everyone is just chasing them, propped up by all the rule changes that have nerfed big men.

Hindsight is 20/20. No, I don’t begrudge the Cavs for not installing a high flying offense around LeBron. That stopped winning Championships starting with the Bad Boy pistons and continuing until 2014 when the Spurs put on an offensive clinic. It’s been all offense since then.

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago

The Lakers stopped winning because Kareem got old and they were fatigued from going to the Finals practically every year in the 1980s. They went to the Finals in1980, 82, 83, 84,85,87 and 88 while winning in 1980, 82,85,86 and 1987. And the Lakers did this in the midst of the great Celtics and 76ers teams run in the 80’s. To me the Lakers domination in 80’s is greater than the Bulls’ reign in the 90’s given the their respective competitions. They were due to crumble although Magic managed to keep the Lakers relevant with another MVP and conference title post Kareem.

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago

Oops my bad, the Lakers also made the 1989 Finals. So that’s 8 Finals and 5 titles in a decade.

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

It’s interesting you think LeBron would thrive in this up tempo style. Reports this year are that Cavs players/coaches are frustrated with LeBron because he just wants to walk the ball up slowly and find one home run pass to pad his assist numbers.

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago

This is the old Lebron of today who prefers to run more selectively. The young Lebron had so much athleticism and not as a good a shooter as he is today. Bad shooting teams usually prefer open court basketball to take advantage of defense scrambling to get set. Even Magic Johnson transitioned into a low-post, set it up point power forward in his latter years when the Lakers got old.

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago

Really? I don’t doubt it, necessarily, but I haven’t seen any reports like that.

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

Here are the pace rankings for the Heat, that awesome organization that did it all correctly with LeBron:

20th, 16th, 23rd, 27th.

Pace under Mike Brown:

19th, 18th, 25th, 25th, 25th.

Under Offensive Wizard David Blatt:

25th.

Under totally offensive minded David Griffin plus Ty Lue who’s mandate was to play faster:

28th. (They won the championship here)

Shoot. How about under Paul Silas:

13th and 19th.

The fastest pace any LeBron team has ever been is 13th, his rookie season. Across 5 head coaches, LeBron has consistently been on teams in the bottom 3rd of the league in pace.

Maybe it wasn’t coaching, maybe it was LeBron.

Maybe it doesn’t matter either.

But you blame it on Dan Gilbert.

Peter
Guest
Peter
11 months 16 days ago

I don’t care what the stat says, but during his Heat days and when DWade was healthy, they were not called the flying death machine for crawling on offense. Ok I will stop blaming Dan Gilbert if you can answer these: Gilbert has owned the Cavs since mid-season of 2004-05. Since then he had John Paxon, Dan Ferry, Chris Grant, David Griffin and Koby Altman as GMs. He had Paul Silas, Brendan Malone, Mike Brown, Byron Scott, Mike Brown, David Blatt, and Ty Lue. That’s 5 GMs and 7 coaches in less than 14 seasons. Name me an organization who has done worse. Better yet, name me an organization with a generational talent the caliber of Lebron, which has fared worse in such a span. You have not yet answered me yet, why an owner would rehire a proven inept coach, give him a 4-5 year guaranteed contract, only to fire him a year later, pay multi-coaches simultaneously in single seasons and then would penny-pinch GMs? And lastly, why would an owner hire the youngest and greenest GM to handle the oldest roster in the league with its franchise player on his contract year?

EvilGenius
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago

Good debate, but I’m a tried and true Gilbert hater. For me, it boils down to this:

Lebron’s job is to play basketball. The last month has been trash and he needs to own that, but for the past 15 years he’s been the best player in the league and shows up every postseason.

Gilbert’s job to hire competent people to run his front office and coaches. Since he’s taken over the team, the Cavs have been a completely unstable. He has kept one GM. Has anyone hired as a head coach ever made it to the end of their contract? The turnover has been constant, the mistakes have been glaring.

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago
Think about this: Dan Gilbert has had Lebron James on his team for 9 seasons. Unless a miracle happens and we win a title this year, he’ll have 1 ring out of 9 years with the best player on the planet. Miami had him for 4 seasons (granted, his prime). They won 2 of 4. 50%. To 11% for the Cavs. He’s had over a decade to create a stable organization and has failed miserably. Even after they WON THE TITLE, he refused to renew his GM. The only GM in the 50 year history of the Cavs to ever build a title team. He fired him days before the draft. This offseason the following all star players were available: Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul. Three players who are elite offensively and great defenders. All players who make the rest of the team better. All players who who are co-leading their teams to the playoffs. All players who would be brilliant players to play alongside Lebron James. Gilbert got IT. He deserves Credit for spending, for helping get LBJ back, and for trying. But he has created one of the least stable organizations in the NBA even though his… Read more »
Mike Podracky
Guest
Mike Podracky
11 months 16 days ago

Good post JoeyB. I wrongly blamed Gilbert for going 1/11 with James; but as you indicate it is “only” 1/9. It’s clear Gilbert has that Napoleonic hubris given his handling of GMs along with Nate Forbes and Jeff Cohen. And toxic isn’t too harsh to describe the owner/star relationship.

EvilGenius
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Dan Gilbert did not feed steroids to the Magic in 2009… did not mail it in with a “hurt” elbow in 2010… did not yank Kevin Love’s arm out of the socket, nor fracture Kyrie’s kneecap in 2015… and did not sign the second best player in the League to join a 73 win team in 2017…

About the only things you can blame him for are paying for the wrong guys in 2005-2007 and the debacle of this past summer… so, arguably four of those “failed years” were not really his fault…

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago
I don’t think so, EG. The things you state are all true, on the one hand. But you can’t act like he made all the right moves and but for those above things that he couldn’t control, we’d have had titles overflowing. He made a LOT of bad moves. Not all bad moves, but too many to be considered anything but a failure. If he was a 6’9″ GM, he’d have fired himself. He mishandled LBJ from the start by coddling him. The Cavs roster in 2009 was pretty crappy. We had some three point shooting, but really, they were never built around Lebron’s strengths. He didn’t create any stability in the Front office and, worse, he didn’t provide a coach who was strong enough to demand LBJ’s respect. He’s doing the exact same thing now with IT. And I will say, recency bias is strong here, but really, this past summer was a disaster. It didn’t occur to him that the only time the Cavs were able to win was when, for the first time, he got the hell out of the way. He just wrote the checks and let the basketball people do their jobs. He should have… Read more »
Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

You know who didn’t coddle LeBron? Pat Riley.

LeBron left him holding the bags too.

Don’t act like there is a right way to handle LeBron. There isn’t. LeBron wants it all.

Many of you probably have a fondness for Joe Tait, who was a straight shooter. In his book with Terry Pluto, Joe talks about how the organization coddled LeBron. Specifically, he cites how LeBron’s “boys” were allowed free reign over the facilities and were allowed on team travel, and how no one else was afforded that.

Guess who else has called out LeBron for that entitled attitude? Phil Jackson – who LeBron attacked incessantly and accused of being a racist.

LeBron wants it all. The idea that Gilbert screwed the pooch because he didn’t handle LeBron right presumes there is a right way. There isn’t.

EvilGenius
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

You mean to tell me that you don’t think the Cavs win a title in 09 without running into the outlier, juiced up Magic? Or with a healthy Love and Kyrie in 15? Or against the Dubs in 17 if KD goes back to OKC? Come now JoeyB… you might be a Gilbert hater, but that’s just silly…

The only thing I’ll agree with you on is this past summer…

Mike Podracky
Guest
Mike Podracky
11 months 16 days ago

Cavs would have won I think in 2009 but for the Orlando upset.

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

The Cavs were 8-0 and were the first team in NBA history to win all 8 games by double digits. Then the Magic happened.

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago
Those Magic weren’t even good enough to win the title. And maybe if that was the only thing, if he’d built an organization that had at least made it TO the finals once since 2007… And say what you want about Pat Riley, but Lebron didn’t leave Miami BECAUSE he wasn’t coddled. In fact, he learned how to be a GD NBA champion because he wasn’t coddled. Lebron left Riley because (1) Arison was a cheapskate and (2) he wanted to go home. If he was from Timbuktu, he would have stayed in Miami. I don’t know how you guys can just make excuses for every year this organization failed. Here is the bottom line: In 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017, we weren’t good enough to win the title. Period. The one exception just so happens to correspond with Dan Gilbert, by all insider accounts, finally getting the hell out of the way and just writing checks. It’s not a coincidence. Dan Gilbert isn’t all bad. But trying to lay this catastrophe at anyone’s feet but his is intentionally blinding yourself to who’s got the power here to build the organization. It’s… Read more »
EvilGenius
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

Guess what… by your metrics the bottom line is that the Cavs not only didn’t win a title, but also didn’t even get to the Finals to have a shot in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004…

So I guess in your book, just getting to the Finals and not winning is “failure”?

And, I have no issue calling the near misses either bad luck (injuries) or mitigating circumstances (steroids and adding KD) as titles that might have been that were not Gilbert’s fault. For crying out loud, the Heat were a Ray Allen miracle shot away from winning just one of four themselves… And what’s the common denominator there? LeBron James.

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago
When you have the undisputed best player in the league, and perhaps in the history of the NBA, then yes, it’s a failure if you don’t win the title. I think the majority of owners and GMs believe the same thing. Look, I’m not saying everything is Gilbert’s fault. It isn’t, not by a long stretch. I’m not saying Lebron doesn’t need to own some of this, he definitely does (I proudly noted in 2011 that teams that didn’t have Lebron on them were 8-0 in winning the title). But in Sports, the goal is to win a title. That’s always the goal. And in the ebbs and flows of seasons, there are windows of contention. Starting in 2007, the Cavs had a window wide open. And due to organizational failures, among other non-controllable things, they didn’t win. Another window opened in 2015. Due to Organization successes, as well as other non-controllable things, the won a chip in 2016. And now, due to organization failures (as well as other stuff) the are closing the window on their fingers. Lebron, whatever his shortcomings as a leader, is the best player in the world. He opens a championship window for whatever team… Read more »
Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Great post Joey. I think Dan wants more credit for the title and wants to prove to everyone he can build a contender. If Sports is about Entertainment then Gilbert fits the bill, but in a negative way for Cavs fans IMO.

MikeO
Guest
MikeO
11 months 16 days ago

Nice job, Joey.

JRL
Guest
JRL
11 months 16 days ago

JoeyB — you are 100% correct.
Nicely done ;)

Mike Podracky
Guest
Mike Podracky
11 months 16 days ago

I meant to add below this was a terrific point/counter point piece by Tom and Nate. That is why Ctb is just one of the best basketball websites around with other terrific contributors like Ben, EG, Mike, Carson, JMay etc too. Thanks guys !!

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

thanks Mike – you make this place great as well.

EvilGenius
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

Great debate guys! Salient points on both sides. While I do still consider the double down on Mike Brown to be a stain on Gilbert’s legacy, I don’t blame him for his infamous comic sans letter (he just said what the majority of Cavs fans were thinking), which was mostly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things (LeBron still came back didn’t he?). He’s probably spent more in luxury taxes than the Dolans ever did on payroll prior to the last three seasons, and he clearly has a passion to win. Dude still made it possible for Cleveland to win an elusive championship and I’ll always appreciate that regardless of what happens from here…

Keirnal
Guest
Keirnal
11 months 16 days ago

While both of you make valid points, I have to side with Tom. I think that the only reason Dan has spent his way into this mess is because LeBron held the team hostage. He forced the Cavs to pay out for his guys TT and JR, pulled in aging vets, and forced the organization to try to get as cute and creative as they could with the assets they had. And I recall, although I didn’t follow the details as closely back then so correct me if I’m wrong, that LeBron handcuffed the team in his first stint in Cleveland by not committing to the team or giving indication that he would be returning when it came to contract time, making it difficult to attract free agents.

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
11 months 16 days ago

He didn’t force them. If Gilbert had a brain in his head, he would have looked to Miami and seen what a competent organization told Lebron about making smart basketball decisions. Lebron didn’t hold the Cavs hostage anymore than Durant did with his one year contract. The difference is, instead of bending down to try to please Lebron, they did the right thing by the organization and the player wanted to stay because they were good. Dan didn’t learn anything from the first time around, except to wrongly believe Lebron holds all the cards. Run a competent winning organization, one that makes smart basketball decisions, spend money if necessary (that was Miami’s failing) and win games. Lebron doesn’t want to leave. He likes staying in his hometown. Dan is chasing him off. He’s holding himself hostage with his Napoleon insecurity.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

DUCKTAIL!

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Mike Podracky
Guest
Mike Podracky
11 months 16 days ago

Cmon, Tom !!!! Letting Griffin go “looks like a mistake.” And it hindsight it looks like the Titanic made a mistake steering into an iceberg. About the same level of destruction leveled on both the Cavs and the Titanic too. My epitaph for Gilbert is having one of the top three players all time for 11 of his so far 15 years in the league, and winning one championship. Gilbert’s unwillingness to give basketball people proper control has been catastrophic. Every respected beat reporter for the Cavs (Jason Lloyd, Windhourst, Marla Ridenhour and Dave McTen) says that is what happened between Gilbert and Griffin. You indicated the sources for this issue were vague or unsourced. It’s also why Gilbert drove Nate Forbes away, who acted as a good buffer between Gilbert’s ego and reality. Always grateful for the one chip, but coulda/shoulda been much more. I will sprinkle some pixie dust, Tom, on your portion of the analysis.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

If you don’t have any pixie dust left just check with IT. He has boatloads!

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

I haven’t read the whole thing yet. Having said that I put most of this on Dan Gilbert. The Cavs have always been dysfunctional w/ LeBron and w/out LeBron. Ownership sets the culture and the culture is dysfunction, and that’s on Dan Gilbert.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
11 months 16 days ago

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
11 months 16 days ago

This is great!

Leo
Guest
Leo
11 months 16 days ago

great long read…i think the problem is the duel between Gilbert and Lebron. It also involves Lue and questionable coaching techniques and schemes that have made problems worse than they are. Granted during teams winning streak it was against average to bad teams, but still winning streak is a winning streak. Lue should have stuck with the lineups even with IT coming back and eventually Rose and shump. He should have sat IT down after his 1st game back (off the bench) and said you looked really good on that rotation. I want to keep you there and you will still play a lot of minutes but we have good thing going now and you’re here to beef up second unit scoring. If Lue is strong enough to tell Lebron to ‘sack up and play harder’ he should’ve done it with IT. He never did and ignored what worked best and now its almost too late. Be very interesting next 48 -72 hours.

Ben Werth
Editor
11 months 16 days ago

Great read, guys.

Yep. Two schmucks that need to sort it out because they both look idiotic at the moment. Bron and Dan. Not you guys. Hehe

For the record, I meant playing Green, Shump, and Rose together. Though, yes I was wrong about Green.

As I hated every aspect of the Kyrie trade and wrote about it at length, I shan’t repeat myself too much.

Yes, we thought IT would at least be fine-ish during the regular season after the initial travesty took place. BUT, once it was clear that his hip was bad, the regular season value was immediately washed from the convo leaving only a dark idiocy waiting to pounce.

Rose and the Kyrie trade are already enough to condemn Dan/Altman as a GM.

You just had to call Kyrie’s bluff. I said it then. It was the only play unless you could have squeezed Ainge for Tatum. No revision needed.

Tom Pestak
Admin
11 months 16 days ago

Of course, we all know the real culprit.

Only one man could drive Kyrie Irving out of Cleveland.

Only one man could drive LeBron crazy enough to chase ringzzz at the expense of his previous golden boy stature.

Only one man could set the blueprint for an organization to sabotage itself for half a decade.

We thought we had rid ourselves of this man, and his legion of hyperventilating fans.

But you can’t kill this man.

Damn you, Kobe.

Raffy22
Guest
Raffy22
11 months 16 days ago

This was a great read! I think we should split the difference here and blame both James and Gilbert. James for being a primadonna and leaving Cleveland the first time without giving Gilbert a heads up. Gilbert then crapped the bed by writing his comic sans letter, which ensured that they would never reconciled. And things became unfixable from that point on. You basically have two guys with huge egos and limited leadership skills. James came back but wanted to stick it to Gilbert at every possible opportunity (see those Klutch contracts) and Gilbert isn’t savvy enough to let make peace with LeBron. Their collective lack of leadership is what will put an end to this great run. Such a shame.

MikeO
Guest
MikeO
11 months 16 days ago

Lol…good read, guys. I do come down more on Nate’s side, personally. People can put blame on Griffin all they want, but he would never have kludged this roster together, and I highly, HIGHLY doubt he does that Celtics trade, which was a disaster at the time (regardless of what some national pundits thought), and it’s even worse in hindsight. Griffin believes in shooting, and worst case he would have an elite scoring roster around Lebron.

Letting Griffin go without a ready made and viable backup plan was just hubris and idiocy. And the Cavs have been paying for it, and will probably pay for it big time this summer. Last summer was one of the worst offseasons I can ever remember a supposedly championship contending team having. It may be the worst offseason ever for such a team. Lebron is hardly blameless in the current state of the Cavs, but even so. I can hardly blame him for looking with disgust at what frequently surrounds him on the court now.

Jason
Guest
Jason
11 months 16 days ago

Wasn’t good a night for the pick as I hoped. Magic won despite scoring 4 points in the last 8 minutes. Dallas let the Clippers score the last 13 points to win by 3. Bulls lost to Sac despite being up 28-9 after one quarter.

Wins:
16 = Hawks, Magic
17 = Mavs, Kings
18 = Suns, Bulls, Grizz
19 = Nets
21 = Lakers

Tonight:
Rockets at Nets
Magic at Cavs
Grizz at Hawks
Suns at Lakers

Under 72 hours to deadline.

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