When the reports came out that LeBron James was taking his talents to Hollywood, the first person who came to mind was Dan Gilbert. I knew there wasn’t going to be another petulant outburst by Mr. Comic Sans. Not this time. This time around, he had to be the happiest person in Cleveland. He finally has his team back.
You see, it wasn’t enough for Gilbert to have the best player on the planet. It’s about him winning on his terms. This is something you didn’t see out of the old school owners and front office people until Pat Riley. You never heard Jerry Buss say he didn’t want Magic, Kareem, Kobe, Shaq and the other legion of Hall of Fame Lakers because wants to be the hero. Buss sat back and let the trains run on schedule.
Think back to the Auerbach days and how he made sure he traded for players like Robert Parrish and Dennis Johnson to ensure the Celtics would have a big three that would make a run for a title each and every year. In fact, in the Parrish deal, the Celtics gave up the number one pick (Warriors to Joe Barry Carroll) and the 13th pick for Parrish and the 3rd pick of the draft. Not only did Auerbach get a center that would anchor his title teams but with the third pick he selected Kevin McHale. Ever heard of that dude?
But like too many of today’s owners, Gilbert wants it to be about him and how he does things. I know this very well living in the DC suburbs where a guy name Dan Snyder has made a living out of ruining the local football team in the name of “doing it his way”.
If Gilbert wanted to be the hero so bad he didn’t have to take LeBron back. He had ample opportunities with draft picks after James’ departure to Miami to build a team in his own likeness. In that time period, he hit on Kyrie Irving and failed miserably elsewhere. They drafted players like Anthony Bennett and Dion Waiters. The locker room was a mess and there was no clear path going forward. The post LeBron era produced a robust 97-215 record. So much for proclaiming that the Cavs would win a title before LeBron.
The one thing Gilbert has in his favor this time is a better roster. Kevin Love is will assume the same “big numbers on average team” role he played in Minnesota. Collin Sexton is a great start to rebuilding the team. Larry Nance Jr. is a solid piece. They’ll still have veterans like Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson. If they can keep Rodney Hood on a good number and trade Kyle Korver, they will be moving in the right direction.
But, Cleveland’s front office will have to prove that they can make the right moves starting with getting their cap under control. Once that’s done, drafting properly is a must and, of course, attract a free agent or two.
Gilbert will surely will find a way to fire Tyronn Lue. Heck, he might be scrambling around for David Blatt’s phone number as we speak. Someone that he can call “his” so if it works out he can try to be the King of Cleveland. I wouldn’t count on it. In the end, for the next few years I expect for Gilbert to look more like “the Emperor with no clothes” than a King.