“LeBron wants to be in charge of everything, which is what puts him at odds with Dan,” one source said. “Dan wants to be in charge of everything.”
The belief is that Gilbert, having reasserted control after chasing out Griffin, will rebuff James’ request for a no-trade clause, or any other measures that give him leverage. And that will be enough to drive James away.
“Dan Gilbert’s not going to do what it takes to keep him,” the same source predicted. “Not a chance in hell he’s going to give him a no-trade clause, or let him dictate contract terms.”
LeBron’s no-trade clause might have been useful this season. When things got particularly bad in Cleveland, he affirmed he wouldn’t waive it. I doubt the Cavs would have dealt him regardless, but he made it a certainty.
But a no-trade clause was relevant only because LeBron signed a multi-year contract due to salary-cap rules relevant in 2016. With those no longer pertinent, he might go back to the 1+1 deals he first signed in his return to Cleveland. That’d give him an implicit no-trade clause, as those contracts are treated as one-year deals until the option is exercised, and players on one-year contracts who’d have early or full Bird Rights after can veto any trade.
Still, Gilbert taking this stance would matter if LeBron wants to sign long-term. An official no-trade clause would also carry over to LeBron’s next team if he approves a trade or in the second year of a 1+1 if he opts in. The implicit no-trade would not.
That could be enough for LeBron to demand the official no-trade clause – not just for the possibility it’s useful, but to show he can get it. He seems unwilling to give an inch. It’s about respect.
It also might be about stubbornness – both LeBron’s and Gilbert’s. This would be a ridiculous battleground for LeBron’s Cavaliers tenure to end on – just give LeBron whatever contract he wants – but it wouldn’t be the first ridiculous showdown between Gilbert and LeBron.