Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers Finding Acceptance in the Wake of Losing LeBron

If there’s one lesson we’ve learned throughout this past week, it’s that different people deal with adversity and grief in different ways. Of course, if you believe Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, then everyone deals with it the same way (five stages of grief), although at different paces. Whatever the case may be, I think we’ve all seen various examples of processing this week.

Perhaps none more so by members of the Cavaliers themselves. On the night of The Decision, we saw Mo Williams process the five stages in a matter of minutes on his Twitter account. And then there’s the case of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert and the Cavaliers went through Denial when they believed they still had a chance with LeBron in this offseason even though he wasn’t returning calls or texts and was busy recruiting other free agents to Miami and was renting cabanas at a hotel in Miami for his celebration. 

Obviously, Gilbert covered the Anger stage when he blasted LeBron with his now infamous letter to Cavs fans. I supported the letter at that time and I still do. Yes I’m quite concerned about the impact on future free agents, but I’m also one to applaud honest and raw emotion. It bothers me that so often we get down on public officials, politicians, media members, athletes, celebrities, etc for never saying what they mean and what’s in their heart, but then when they do, they get criticized for it. I just can’t be that person, so I say kudos to Gilbert for showing us that he is one of us and he is with us. As much pain as we feel for losing LeBron, we’re just fans. Gilbert had more at stake than any of us. I feel his anger was justified.

The Bargaining stage of the process of course covers the whole free agent negotiations. The whole “We’ll trade anything for Chris Bosh if only you’ll come back and give us another chance” story. Unfortunately, we now know that it appears this was a bunch of posturing on the part of the James-Wade-Bosh collusion effort. Yes, I said collusion. The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘collusion’ is a “secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose”. In this case, the collusion may not have been illegal, but it was certainly deceitful. So don’t let anyone tell you this wasn’t collusion. It was, it’s just an acceptable form of collusion under the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Next up we have Depression, which I think virtually every single Cavs fan has felt to some degree throughout this process. I’m sure Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers are no different, but hopefully the depression stage is brief because there’s still work to be done.

Which of course brings us to Acceptance. As Scott mentioned earlier today, it appears Gilbert is moving on the Cavaliers are now focusing on the future. I’ve seen one unverified report on Twitter that Dan Gilbert is planning a public apology to LeBron. I haven’t seen this confirmed anywhere yet, but if that’s what Gilbert feels he needs to do to move on, then so be it.

Whether Gilbert apologizes to LeBron or not of course is of precious little concern to me. That’s their business between one another. What I do want to know, though, is whether Gilbert is going to force Chris Grant and the Cavs front office to push for an immediate rebuild to stay mildly relevant from a “scraping into the playoffs” standpoint, or whether he will get out of the way and let the team do what’s best for this franchise in the long term?

When Dan Gilbert released his letter, while most Cavs fans stood up and applauded it, plenty of people scoffed at the notion of the Cavaliers winning a Championship before the LeBron does with the Heat. For me, it served as a red flag. I was extremely worried that it was a signal that the Cavaliers were immediately going to take on bad contracts and/or more salary in an attempt to just get into the playoffs and sort of “see what happens” from there.

For a while it appeared that was exactly what the strategy was going to be. The Cavaliers began to show an interest in the likes of Leandro Barbosa, Josh Childress, and Al Jefferson. All 3 are certainly fine players, but is using the freshly acquired trade exception from Miami on Childress and Jefferson really the best way to go about rebuilding? Neither player is a franchise player and both have many concerns such as injury and the minor fact of Childress having not played in the NBA in 2 seasons.

Thankfully, the Cavaliers won’t have to worry about this. All indications are that Al Jefferson will be heading to Utah while it sounds like Josh Childress is on his way to Phoenix regardless of whether the Charlotte Bobcats stay in the deal or not. It’s unclear how serious the Cavs were in their pursuit of Jefferson, but by the Cavs striking out on these moves, it gives them a chance to step back, take a moment, and proceed with caution in terms of what players and salaries are added to this roster.

It’s important to remember that just because the Cavaliers have this trade exception, they don’t have to use it. It’s highly unlikely that Chris Paul would want to come to Cleveland now, but if the Hornets do at some point put him on the trade block as many are suspecting, the Cavs will want to have their trade exception to offer New Orleans. Imagine if they had blown a good portion of it on Al Jefferson and/or Josh Childress. If you can acquire a franchise player or close to it with the trade exception, by all means use it. If not, though, there’s no shame in letting it expire and just collecting the cap space.

Now is the time for Acceptance and moving on. The Cavaliers seem to be getting more serious every day about moving on. They took their shots at LeBron and they made their point, they looked into a few high profile deals, but now may be the time for riding this out and waiting for a more perfect opportunity to improve. How long Cavs fans stand behind Dan Gilbert may depend on how quickly the Cavs truly move on.

  • MrCleaveland

    Yep, it’s time to let it go, guys.

  • The Conductor

    Most of this is dead on, but missing the opportunity to get Al Jefferson is a mistake. Solid big men who avg 20+ pts and 12+ rebounds a night are few an in between. And those are low estimates for A.J. He’s fully recovered from his knee injury from 2 years ago. Letting him escape to Utah is a mistake.

  • http://www.adapterdesign.com adapterdesign

    James, Ferry and now Z gone. I’m starting to wonder if maybe Gilbert is more of a problem than we every thought.

  • mgbode

    Calderon is back on the market. Bobcats pulled out.
    He would look great in Byron Scott’s system.

    (I still don’t believe Gilbert will tank and use the OKC method of building a team)

  • Roosevelt

    Gilbert’s tirade would have been the perfect segue to a trade for Al Jefferson. Acie Law? Not so much.

    If we try to remain contenders, I’ll believe that he’s committed to winning. if we go back to the days when Chris Mills was our star, I won’t. We’re not off to a good start.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    FWIW, Al Jefferson has never put up a 20/12 season and has had knee problems and is coming off a 17 pt/9 reb season. I do love Jefferson, but not at that price tag and not on a rebuilding team. He’s more a guy you want to fit on a contender. He’ll be a great fit in Utah.

  • Roosevelt

    Also, WRT rebuilding – for every team that got good by starting from scratch and building slowly, there’s another that has been building from scratch for years. I.e., for every OKC, there’s a Minnesota or LAC. And there’s also a Utah Jazz, who never got bad in twenty years.

    Basketball isn’t as easily decipherable as some other sports. Even OKC may find that they need another superstar to take the next step. For all the big crazy moves that are often derided, Boston won a championship off of one. For all that people want to build within the organization, all of the recent champions have either gotten insanely lucky with draft picks, (San Antonio) or made a big move (Miami, Boston, LAL). How do you plan for that?

  • tom

    even though it seems kinda a longshot…how crazy would it be if Chris Paul actually ended up here..Post-Lebron!?

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-6513-Cleveland-Sports-Examiner clevexaminer

    I’ve read rumors of a Knicks super-trio made up of Amare, Paul and Melo next year. The Lebron saga might be the start of an ugly trend in the NBA if this happens with the Knicks too.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    @Roosevelt: I’m all for the Cavs remaining a good team if the moves are well thought out and done for the right reasons. What I’m not ok with is burning up cap space and spending recklessly as a reaction to what happened with LeBron. The Cavs shouldn’t worry about when the Heat win a championship, they should just worry about themselves and do whats best for this franchise.

  • Bobby

    Paul signed with LRMR. Pretty sure that permanently takes CLE out of the picture for good.

  • tom

    pretty sure the knicks will regret that Amare contract/signing in a few years…i wouldnt worry about that trio happening, even if it does come to be

  • http://www.zfcomics.com dgriff13

    mmhm. I think I have annoyed my twitter followers and facebook friends to the brink of de-friending/un-following me… that’s a sign that enough is enough.

    We have 3 rebuilding teams and will not see the playoffs for years. I have little to get excited about. Call me a fair-weather fan or whatever, but I just don’t get as hyped about my teams when it’s obvious they’re not making the playoffs before the season’s even half over.

    Depressed about Z, too. Wish there was a way he, and only he, could get a ring down in Miami. Would welcome him back to work with the Cavs in the future.

  • MattyFos

    Rather than tanking for draft picks why don’t we trade for young quality players. Darren Collinson was on the trading block early this off season. Getting a player of his caliber with JJ and maybe Iggy and Al Jefferson would be a competitive team in 2 years and they will be competitive for another 8.

  • christopher

    #1 – Paul will never play in cleveland after his LRMR signing. Good Call Bobby.

    #2 – Lebron, Ferry, Z, Brown = all gone and 0 rings. Not a problem if you ask me. During this whole process i have kept reminding those on the edge…7 titles were handed out since James joined the NBA and NONE of them had him on these people in their employement.

    #3 – This article is spot on for those freaking out about the Childress/Jefferson moves. We dont want ’em. There are a few key players i would love to see in Scott’s system along with stockpiling picks. Iggy, Collison, Felton to name just a few. Other than that, no sense in blowing the trade expection on aged talent as we have been for so many years.

    #4 – the most important piece, GO FREAKING CAVALIERS! i was here before LBJ during LBJ and long after LBJ. How many of you will say the same thing?

  • christopher

    LOL @ Matty

    its like we were reading each others minds. nice calls with Collison and Iggy.

  • MattyFos

    We all know how fickle Cleveland fans are. So, tanking and winning only 15 games a season for the next four years will only devalue the franchise because fans won’t show up. It happened to the Indians, it happened to the Browns last season when our last two home games were threatened to be blacked out because of attendance. We need to put up a quality product as we’re building. So trade for good players who are under rookie contracts like Collinson, Wilson Chandler, Mareese Speights, Johnny Flynn, Marcus Thorton.
    Then you combine those guys with the Vets, Iggy, Jefferson, maybe Emeka Okafor (NOHornets would require we take his contract for Collinson)
    We would form a good young nucleus and compete for some years.

  • mgbode

    @14 – you pay an extra price for trading for young quality pieces over drafting them. guys like Collison are more proven which makes them more valuable than “draft pick X”

  • Jack

    et tu, z?

  • MattyFos

    @mgbode, Yes, I know that. But you also know what talent you’re getting. So you don’t draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant

  • Tim

    Danny Granger, please!

  • http://shakesthesnowglobe.blogspot.com EZ


    Mostly true but I wouldn’t say that Cleveland fans are fickle when it comes to the Browns. It took two winning seasons in ten years to approach a blackout for two games at the end of the season.

  • Stinkfist

    “I’ve seen one unverified report on Twitter that Dan Gilbert is planning a public apology to LeBron”

    I wonder if it will be full of backhanded compliments…
    “LeBron has had great some regular seasons with us”
    “Cleveland loved you”
    “He was the leader of only the second team in NBA history to win 60+ games in two seasons and not make the Finals”
    “LeBron went with the most surefire way to get a ring… well, he coulda just married his girlfriend”
    “LeBron did a fantastic job rehabbing his elbow… its as good as new!”

  • Fred Beene

    Gilbert is one of us? Did anybody else here lose a quick $100 million Thursday night?

    Look, maybe he was hurt like the rest of us, but let’s be careful about thinking he’s just another bitterly disappointed Northeast Ohio sports fan. His effigy could just have easily been burning in his home state, at his own alma mater, had he bagged Izzo for the Cavs.

  • Shamrock

    Looks like Z followed LeBron so does this make him public enemy #2 now? I’m guessing no.

  • joe


  • Bridgecrosser

    The Cavs are on tilt. When on tilt, a good poker player just pushes the cards into the middle for a while. Yeah, you might get something like A-10 (Jefferson) but with the upcoming CBA arrangement, it might be best to have cooler heads prevail.

    In the end, all players want money and playing time. Be patient. Gilbert will get off tilt and get his name and the franchise in a place where they can start playing poker again. Let’s just take our medicine and move on. I am going to make a conscious decision to attend a few games this year and just HAVE FUN.

    The new CBA could be a game changer. No sense in going into it with more of B-players than we already have.

  • DKH

    Shamrock, what point are you trying to make? Big Z is late in a successful career, and at 35, with his stats declining, I don’t think anyone will care if he goes title-hunting. Note that, for example, the “wins produced” statistic (see Wages of Wins blog) suggests that Z cost the Cavs some wins last season.

    I can’t support the way LeBron made his choice, and I think the current Heat situation is bad for the NBA, competitively speaking, but a chance for Z to get a title might make me indifferent to them, rather than actively opposed. Whatever the level of success for that team, it will be interesting to watch.

  • jimkanicki


    emerson said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    i hope that you’re just baiting. in case you’re serious… ray bourque. bruins fans were 100% supportive of his trade and that he get a chance at a ring. they were delighted that he succeeded with the rockies. same applies here.

    so my question… seriously… who goes onto blogs expressly to be a d.b.?

  • Eric

    So now that Big Z has basically nothing left to give it’s okay for him to leave? What about loyalty? Isn’t that still important in Cleveland?

  • GP

    No problem with Z going after a ring, just wish it wasn’t with the Heat. Lakers or Celtics weren’t interested?

    Caves offer Lowry $24M. Why bother? Isn’t that a bit high for a backup?

  • bobby

    @29- err… Avalanche? The rockies are a baseball team.

  • Mark in MOTL

    Jefferson would have been a horrible fit in the up-tempo offense Scott wants to run … almost as bad as Z.

    Personally, I’d like to see the Cavs more or less stand pat for at least half a season to try to figure out what they have. We have no idea how most of the guys on the roster will perform without LeBron to draw double-teams and most of the defensive attention. Only Twan, Mo and AP have really proven themselves with other teams. I’d like to see them bring over Eyenga and Kaun, and they will have to sign SOMEONE to play SF. Other than that, wait and see before making a bunch of moves. Players will be available at the trade deadline.