ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said, “Dan Gilbert believes that he can build a championship team without LeBron, and I think he is looking forward to trying.” Windhorst later clarified he was making his own comment, not citing the Cavaliers owner. But the distinction, though significant, carried only so much consequence.
Because Gilbert says things like that about LeBron James.
Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:
According to a couple of owners I’ve spoken to and a few executives I’ve spoken to, Dan Gilbert is known for not being particularly fond of LeBron James. He doesn’t mind the thought of LeBron James leaving at all. As a matter of fact, I had one executive tell me, “Excuse me, I can’t wait until he leaves, because I’ll get my team back.” This is something Dan Gilbert has actually echoed.
That is an exact quote from my sources that said that Dan Gilbert said that.
I believe Gilbert wants LeBron to re-sign with the Cavs. But, while the rest of us believe they’d be left in ruins without LeBron, I believe Gilbert sees silver linings.
Having LeBron on your team brings challenges. He demands so much – spending, say on personnel and just generally that everyone follows his lead. The Cavaliers have directly lost a lot of money the last few years (though Gilbert has received indirect financial benefits due to their LeBron-fueled success).
But give Gilbert this: He sucked it up and dealt with those challenges. He apologized for his infamous letter and convinced LeBron to return (against the initial wishes of LeBron’s family). He promised unconditional spending and backed up that pledge by paying huge luxury-tax bills. He remained mostly in the background while LeBron got all the credit.
Is Gilbert tired of that? Probably.
Would he keep doing it to keep LeBron? Probably.
At this point, Gilbert likely looks forward to LeBron departing, because what other choice is there? Most – likely including Gilbert – believe LeBron will leave Cleveland this summer. Gilbert would take greater control of the Cavaliers at that point. They’ll be far worse with a provenly bad structure. But they’ll be more clearly Gilbert’s.
Billionaires typically like to be in control, and this type of talk is an attempt to give the impression Gilbert is in control. “I can’t wait until he leaves, because I’ll get my team back” seems like something he would spout off trying to sound impressive.
In reality, Gilbert would be a driving force behind LeBron leaving the Cavs again. But nobody wants to talk in depth about how he alienated the greatest player of his generation.
So, Gilbert spins another tale – for others and, maybe more importantly, for himself.