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.
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.