Dan Gilbert Fires Back at the Sports Guy…Kind of

Dan Gilbert’s name is in the headlines once again.  Fourteen months after his scorched earth letter about the “self-proclaimed chosen one,” the majority owner of the Clevleand Cavaliers is allegedly one of the few NBA owners who is providing divide amongst the ongoing labor impasse.  And much like the media circus that allowed him to defend his emotionally fueled email to fans, Gilbert is once again firing back at those attempting to disparage his name.

Just yesterday, ESPN/Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons took to Twitter to drag Gilbert’s name through the mud, stating that the Cavaliers’ owner “overpaid for years” but no longer wants the same system, an outcry which drew considerable response from fans of the NBA and Cavaliers alike.  All that is asked is that those with Simmons’ point of view actually consider both sides of the story; myopic viewpoints are for lazy and redundant op-ed columnists, not someone who generally has a well-rounded opinion of the league despite never living in a small-to-mid market within his adult life. Alas, in likely refutation, Gilbert opted for the broad brushed right hook by grouping all bloggers as salacious individuals who strive to astonish their collective audience. 

It as this time, being what I would consider to be an NBA blogger that I will choose to assume that the Cavaliers’ owner is calling out Simmons and Simmons alone.  After all, roughly one week before the hullabaloo insued on the major blogwaves, WFNY reported a Chris Mannix soundbite from Cleveland’s very own 92.3 The Fan; Gilbert was grouped in with Washington’s Ted Leonsis, Phoenix’ Robert Sarver and Boston’s Wyc Grousbeck.  While there is considerable potential to point out the obvious Simmons-Grousbeck connection (which too can be categorized as “sad and pathetic”), it is also worth pointing out the piece penned by TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott – also an ESPN property – that listed Gilbert, Leonsis, Sarver and Grousbeck in with Charlotte’s Michael Jordan, Dallas’ Mark Cuban, Denver’s Stan Kroenke, Detroit’s Tom Gores, Memphis’ Michael Heisley, Milwaukee’s Herb Kohl, Philly’s Josh Harris, Portland’s Paul Allen, Sacremento’s tandem of Joe and Gavin Maloof, San Antonio’s Peter Holt, Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum and Utah’s Greg Miller.  Not exactly a one-or-two-man band of hard-nosed negotiating and anchor dragging.

Not that a he-said-he-said argument, one held via Twitter nonetheless, carries much weight outside of confines such as WFNY, but Gilbert certainly has an argument in the light of his character being painted in an ill light – being a rogue extremist in a world in which 28 others agree to the terms of the players; a tea party representative at a democratic rally. It is remiss to not mention that the two owners that have also been singled (or doubled?) out are James Dolan and Jerry Buss – owners from  two of the largest markets which have considerable impact within the media.

Naturally, as it has through nearly every other Gilbert-based story over the last 18 months, the fallout will likely be that the high-and-mighty will take to their e-mountain tops, shouting that Gilbert should just keep his mouth (and/or Twitter feed) shut and continue being a greedy billionare who wants to add to his presently considerable wealth, forgetting – or blatantly ignoring – that the man spent countless dollars to build a contender, barely broke even in doing so and still failed to successfully combat geography.  But if this lockout has showed us anything, it is that no one side is going to paint the other as a friendly bystander and – depending on for what team said individual opts to have rooting interest – the blogissists will have to decide which side they choose to believe.

  • Clown Baby

    Good for Dan. This is his one shot to ensure that the NBA doesn’t turn into MLB and small-market teams aren’t made into farm teams for the major market teams. I don’t doubt that Dan is taking a hard line, but like Scott said, I doubt he’s one of only a couple owners. He just happens to be a lightning rod for criticism.

  • mgbode

    on one side, i do find it somewhat disheartening that Dan Gilbert apparently is allowing an entertainment sports writer who has become a caricature of what he once proclaimed to be to get under his skin.

    on the other side, it is nice to see him willing to fight to protect his image. i think someone needs to teach him some ‘southern tact’ though as a well placed barb oftentimes is more effective than what comes off as his abrasive tone.

  • christopher

    @mgbode

    i agree…i thought one of the best things i’ve ever heard Mark Cuban say was “i could care less about them” in response to the question he was asked about the Miami Heat after the Mavs won the NBA Championship.

    i’d like to see Gilbert with the same attitude very soon. that he loves his team, he loves the fans and he could care less what anyone else thinks.

  • kdev

    Here’s what I don’t get: how many deals that would be widely considered “bad” did Gilbert’s Lebron-era front office sign? Sure, we aggressively took on existing contracts to bolster our championship chances, but we didn’t ink Gilbert Arenas to an outrageous contract, or Corey Maggette, or Elton Brand, or Rashard Lewis, etc.

    Just because Gilbert took advantage of his deep pockets in the hopes of winning a championship – almost certainly hemorrhaging money in the process – doesn’t mean the revenue system isn’t in need of a makeover. Any writer who groups him in with Leonsis or the Maloofs has no idea what he or she is talking about. Plain and simple.

    Gilbert is in a class of his own given the unprecedented nature of Lebron’s departure. He deserves a lot more respect for what he has done here. What really makes me laugh is thinking about what these writers would have said had Gilbert not forked over millions of dollars for the Jamesons, Wallaces etc. Then he would have been cheap and unwilling to do what it takes to win. Unreal.

  • WayneEmbrysKids

    Is Simmons now saying the Cavs shouldn’t have gone after Shaq or Jamison? Is he blaming Gilbert for the Larry Hughes signing? Z’s extension?

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    Well, the Hughes, Marshall, and Jones signings were all definitely bad deals in retrospect. I don’t recall an outcry when the deals were made, though, that these were a bunch of horrible contracts. A few raised questions/concerns, but it was by no means consensus. I felt Anderson Varejao’s extension was a bit pricey at that time, although I don’t feel that way now so much. I loved the Boobie and Delonte contracts. AP and Jamario Moon were signed using exceptions. The Mo trade was brilliant (both trading for and trading away). I never liked the Shaq trade, but for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic, it was fine. The Antawn trade was great when the Cavs made it, it just so happened that Jamison never really helped the Cavs all that much.

    Anyway, I am 100% on Gilbert’s side. I love the way he runs the Cavaliers and I even appreciate his unfiltered candor on Twitter and in press releases, even when what he says is uncomfortable.

  • Joe

    I am with Andrew…100% on Gilbert’s side – big time!!!

  • mgbode

    anyone that wants to see Simmons more full thought on it in print can look at his NFL picks today on grantland. i won’t link to it though.

    basically, he’s using a strawman argument where he states as fact that the reason gilbert and sarver are trying to change the NBA system is because they are petty. he never mentions any of the real reasons they are doing so (see yesterday’s thread on here as the WFNY and commenters hit on a ton of them).

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Even if Simmons wants to characterize specific transactions as ill-fated, it wasn’t Gilbert that facilitated these deals. It was the general manger, Danny Ferry in those transactions cited above. Providing the money is considerably different than allocating it. If one wants to chastize Gilbert for putting Ferry in charge, that’s a completely independent discussion. Similar to marrying the ownership of a mortgage company with that of an NBA franchise.

  • JM

    It’s funny that the guy is that ignorant about what is wrong with the league right now.

  • Harv 21

    Gilbert’s fireback tweets only give more fodder for these guys’ next columns. He’s creating a vicious cycle that only helps owners like Cuban who need their weekly publicity fix.

    Just shut up, Dan. Just win, and you’l have more media supporter than you ever wanted.

  • Shamrock

    Hey Dan don’t you have other things to worry about? Little Napoleon rears his head again! #6 isn’t the only one with a massive ego.

  • jimkanicki

    simmons’ world view really is reflected in this map.

  • jimkanicki
  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    I get what you’re saying Harv, but I think this is probably something you and I just fundamentally disagree on (I know we’ve discussed this plenty in the past).

    I don’t necessarily care what people outside Cleveland think of Dan Gilbert. I mean, I’ll defend Gilbert and correct them when they say things that I don’t think make a whole lot of sense. But really, I’d rather have a competent owner like Gilbert who mostly does things the right way but spouts off on Twitter than an owner who consistently screws things up but at least keeps quiet about it. And to cover the 3rd condition, I’d rather have Gilbert than an owner who does things right but never talks in the media or on Twitter. Like I said, I appreciate his unfiltered honesty. It’s refreshing to me.

  • mike

    a discussion of dan gilbert has no place in his weekly NFL column. it just doesnt. i like simmons, but he is taking any excuse to rip on dan gilbert with no real substance. its getting old. simmons has used the “cavs did the exact opposite as sam presti” argument for years but refuses to acknowledge (or just ignores) that danny ferry/dan gilbert and cavs situation was apples to oranges when compared to sam presti and OKC. they didnt have the luxury to build slowly through the draft since (a) they were clearly in “win now” mode, partly due to ESPN’s constant “analysis” that LBJ was going to NYC if the cavs didnt “win now”, (b) since their immediate draft pick situation was messed up thanks to paxson, and (c) the picks they did have were mid-to late first rounders since the team was playoff caliber. they were out of lottery contention absent injury. OKC could build long term, and could afford to be bad for a few years to get better lottery picks. OKC was NOT in “win now” mode. now, we can certainly argue that paxson should have taken the “sam presti approach” but that argument has no legs when it comes to ferry/dan gilbert.

  • mike

    ive said it a few times now. bill simmons is a very funny writer and a fan with a great forum to project his thoughts. like him or not, dan gilbert is a self-made billionaire businessman. at the end of the day, i would think dan gilbert has a bit of a better understanding as how to run a business and how to create a better bottom line approach than bill simmons.

  • jimkanicki

    simmons’ arguments are so obtuse that i feel like andy dufresne when i hear them.

    Andy Dufresne: How can you be so obtuse?
    Warden Samuel Norton: What? What did you call me?
    Andy Dufresne: Obtuse. Is it deliberate?

    it almost has to be deliberate. perhaps he figures he can get lebron for a podcast or something?

  • Harv 21

    @Andrew: and I sometimes find it refreshing too. But he keeps doing it.

    My concern is never what “people outside Cleveland think” (I don’t care what people outside my own house think), though I was and still am mildly concerned about free agents after his post-LeBron rant given how few players want to relocate here. I just think he’s setting up distractions for his own organization, and unless he’s enjoying the attention or horribly thin-skinned not sure why he needs to inadvertently publicize every thoughtless rant. In NFL terms, I favor the Rooneys over the Davises, the Paul Browns over the puff-chested, klieg-light lovin’ Ryan Brothers. Once is fun, repeatedly is a problem.

  • http://gooddoctorzeus.blogspot.com DocZeus

    While it IS important to note that Dan Gilbert has commited numerous sins including his role in the subprime mortgage that tanked the economy and ironically caused a large amount of the strife that the NBA currently resides in, it takes a certain lack of critical thinking to not realizing the posturing of whats really going on.

    No matter if you believe the owners inflated 300 million in losses or independent estimates that the league made $180 million last season, it is absolutely inarguable that the league is not nearly as profitable for the majority of the league as it should be. Not when $150 million dollars of that profit is made by only 3 teams.

    1. A more pro-owner distribution of revenues aren’t going to be enough on its own. Not when 17 teams operate in the red and not when a soft cap is still in place to allow a team to jack up the already bloated salaries of role players that end up clogging up the payroll and flexibility of a small market teams. This can create a situation where the Orlando Magic lose $22 million last year attempting to keep Dwight Howard happy so he won’t jump ship.

    2. A hard cap by itself isn’t enough because a salary floor that will be guaranteed by the player/owner’s BRI split will place undue hardship on already struggling small market franchises when their operatin costs increase that can’t make ends meet.

    3. Meanwhile, increased revenue sharing seems might SEEM like a pancea to the problem. That is only if big market owners agree to massively reduce their profit margins to subsidize struggling franchises. If you were to evenly split BRI over 30 franchises last year, each team would take home about $6 million. When you compare this to the $66 million dollar that the Knicks actually made and don’t have to share last year, its easily understandable why James Dolan and Jerry Buss would grow visibily annoyed with Dan Gilbert.

    Not to mention, you have bizarre situations like the Dallas Mavericks winning an NBA championship and losing $8 million dollars last season because of their own reckless spending. Keep in mind that the Dallas is one of the best markets in the country and generate a large amount of revenue yet manage to lose money because Cuban’s treats his franchise like a toy. This is admittedly GREAT for fans but it’s bad for league economics in a variety of different ways. But most simply because a team that should be helping boost potential league wide profits in revenue sharing end up getting subsidized by their opponents. Not to mention, Jerry Buss can’t be very happy having to subsidize the gross spending of one of his chief rivals. (Granted, this was also true of Gilbert in the LeBron years, too)

    4. The final potential method to making the NBA more profitable is contraction which absolutely nobody (except maybe owners of large market teams and their fans) would like.

    What’s probably needed is some combination of all three solutions to fix the NBA’s problem. You need a reduction in players revenue sharing to make the league on the whole more profitable for ownership, you need a salary cap to curb expenditures and you need a salary floor to make sure players and big market owners are completely getting screwed.

    The problem is that one or all of the situations will be grossly unpalatable to the players or some ownership constituency. The reason that Buss and Dolan are crucifiying Gilbert and Sarver because the deal that was offered on Thursday is grossly tilted in their favor. They are already wildly profitable and a reduction in the salary cap is a huge win. But that doesn’t fix the problems that face Gilbert/Sarver which is why they are hard line.

  • http://gooddoctorzeus.blogspot.com DocZeus

    Its also not suprising at all that Gilbert and Sarver are being portrayed as the ring leaders when a broad range of owners are just as hawkish on the lockout as they are. For example, the incredibly well respected Peter Holt of the vaunted San Antonio Spurs is actually just as hawkish and reportedly pro-hard cap. So why, Gilbert and Sarver?

    Public relations. Gilbert and Sarver are the current NBA poster children for bad ownership. Portraying Dan “Comic Sans” Gilbert and Robert “I Ruined Steve Nash’s Title Chances” Sarver ruins the hard liners credibility in the public eye. It’s harder to say Peter Holt and Wyc Grousbeck are destroying the NBA.

    Quite frankly, Gilbert is a patsy.

  • Grif_E

    Simmons is an enemy of the mid/small market sports world. He thinks everything is hunky dory and that the real problem is too many teams and the midwest and the south should just root for teams on the coasts. There will be no rationalizing with him. His ilk needs to be dragged along kicking and screaming and I hope Dan and company are just the billionaires to do it. I just hope I see the same thing happen in the MLB before my days are numbered on this earth.

  • mgbode

    @DocZeus – *slow-clap*

    one thing I would add is that while Mark Cuban “lost” $8mil in operating costs for this fiscal year; he will more than make up for that loss in the valuation of the Dallas Mavericks as a result of winning the championship.

    that is the one thing about Mark Cuban. he is more forward thinking than most give him credit. he is looking ahead to what will maximize his overall profits even if it doesn’t happen for years wherein most other owners want to see everything balanced now (and could lose out in the long run because of it).

  • K Simon

    Dan Gilbert didn’t lose out on Lebron because of geography. He may have “spent countless dollars” to build a contender but as Simmons pointed out, that money was poorly spent. Cleveland’s contender status was solely dependent upon the talent of Lebron James. Spending money does not excuse the fact that Lebron never once had a legitimate all star caliber teammate during his entire Cleveland career. I’m defining legitimate all star as a player capable of making the all star team without the benefit of having Lebron James as a teammate. Lebron left to team up with better co-workers. Without knowing Dan Gilbert personally, it’s impossible to pin point what his motivations are with certainty, but based on statements like those presented in the comic sans letter, it seems more than plausible that Gilbert holds a considerable amount of resentment towards Lebron and views this contract negotiation as an opportunity to stick it to the players and fight for a system in which a player like Lebron would not have the power or freedom to flee the team lucky enough to draw his ping pong ball despite the team’s continual mismanagement.

  • john

    isn’t that the same as sayin the Thunder’s cintender status is dependent on kevin durant? its okay to havr a team’s success dependent on a player. Whats not okay is when that player doesnt’t show up and the other players do, and you take up hi argument that it was ownership and teammates faults.
    Gilbert put the guys around LeBron at a cost to himself, his spending earned two home courts in two years. Its not Gilberts fault they choked.
    Simmons has never hid his feelings for the cv even when LeBron was here; organizing chants in Boston a few years ago referencing New York. Why would he include his own team’s owner in the discussion? It hurts his angle of bashing Cleveland

  • K Simon

    The Thunder wouldn’t be able to win a championship without Kevin Durant, but they wouldn’t drop straight to the bottom of the conference without him. The Thunder have Russell Westbrook. Lebron never had a teammate of that caliber in Cleveland. The Thunder minus Kevin Durant are a much, much better team than any of the Lebron Cavs teams minus Lebron. In Lebron’s last game in Cleveland, he put up 27 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 assists. I defy you to tell me which of his teammates outplayed him in this game that he didn’t “show up” for. Lebron played his butt off in Cleveland for 7 years. He won two MVPs. He earned two home courts in two years. Cleveland management teamed him with the likes of washed up Shaqs and Antwan Jamisons, washed up Ben Wallaces and Wally Szczerbiaks before that. Cleveland management overvalued and over payed players like Varejao and Gibson. The best teammate Lebron ever had in Cleveland (Mo Williams) is barely holding a starting job over Eric Bledsoe for the Clippers and will never even sniff an all-star appearance now that he doesn’t have the benefit of playing alongside Lebron. Gilbert spent money, but he spent it very poorly. Thats why his desire to blow up the NBA’s system is so hypocritical. He had no problem with the system when it benefited him and he was able to tell Lebron and fans, “Look, I spend money. Don’t pay attention to our incompetent management. I spend money!” Teams like the Thunder are succeeding because they are well managed. Gilbert shouldn’t hold the whole league hostage because his management team squandered Lebron James for 7 years.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    The Thunder didn’t sign Westbrook et al in a free market, they drafted them; something they were afforded as Durants rookie year saw a record that was Cavs circa ’10-’11. While OKC has an top-tier front office, the fact that James forced the Cavs out of the lottery upon entry, ensuring that any other talent would have to arrive via open market or soft cap-aided trade. But aside from that minor detail, your argument makes complete sense.

  • K Simon

    Actually the Cavs had the 10th pick in the draft after Lebron’s rookie season. They passed on players such as Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson, and Kevin Martin to select Luke Jackson. I can’t tell if you’re seriously suggesting Lebron should be criticized for forcing the Cavs out of the lottery, but regardless, relying on free agency and trades to surround your draft acquired superstar is not an impossible task. Cleveland might not have the glamour of New York or LA, but most teams don’t. Free agents want to play somewhere where they’ll be highly paid and win games. The reason Cleveland didn’t draw the best free agents during Lebron’s tenure was because they had too much of their cap space eaten up by inferior players on bad contracts. Several championship teams have successfully made trades to compliment their superstars. The Lakers didn’t draft Pau Gasol or lure him in free agency. They made a good trade. The Mavericks brought in Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler via trades. The Celtics, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, trades. The Cavs made trades too. They just made bad ones, generally bringing in washed up players with terrible contracts. In 7 years the Cavs management failed to make a decisively successful trade or draft selection and that’s what opened the door for Lebron to leave. Not Lebron James being an evil person. And not a bad collective bargaining agreement that gives players the freedom to extricate themselves from poorly managed teams.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    All great points aside from each trade being made my a major, geographically attractive market and the fact that the year after LeBron’s draft, the Luke Jackson season, Dan Gilbert – the subject of this post – didn’t own the team.

  • mike

    thanks for brining up luke jackson. i have maintained, and continue to maintain, that the failures of paxson as GM infinitely hurt this team more than any failures of Ferry.

  • K Simon

    I don’t follow you on why Cleveland is at a disadvantage against any other team when it comes to making trades. Very few players have no trades clauses so its not like players can refuse to go there. When Lebron was around, very few players would have refused to go there anyway. I think you’re overestimating the ‘major geographically attractive market’ thing. Boston isn’t any geographically sexier than Cleveland. The weather is just as cold and nasty there and although Boston has some NBA history mystique going for it, its also known for being a little behind the times on the accepting racial diversity front. Originally, Kevin Garnett wasn’t willing to go there and only changed his mind after they made the Ray Allen trade. I’m 25 and for the majority of my NBA viewing life, Boston was terrible. So was Dallas. Hmm. Did the Mavericks get good because Dallas suddenly became a major geographically attractive market? Any chance it was because they were bought by a better owner, Cuban, who hired better people to help him manage the team and they rolled a yahtzee with Nowitzki?

    As far as blaming Paxson and other management prior to Gilbert’s ownership, I agree. I can almost forgive whiffing on Luke Jackson, but I’d have lost my mind as a Cleveland fan knowing that the 2005 first round pick was traded away in 1997! Lots of stupid moves were made pre-Gilbert no doubt. Just remember, they got Lebron pre-Gilbert too. I don’t think you can separate Gilbert from all of Ferry’s failures, but for the sake of argument, let’s say I agree and Gilbert takes no responsibility and all of the futility gets pinned on Ferry and Cleveland’s previous bad gm’s. You can’t blame Lebron for any of that either then right? You can’t blame Lebron for leaving or for Cleveland’s current status because he had even less power than Gilbert right?

    This is where Gilbert – the subject of this post – comes in. Because it sure seems to me that Gilbert blames Lebron. He blames Lebron and the previous collective bargaining agreement that allowed Lebron enough freedom to leave. He wants to roll back salaries and harden the cap to the point that a marquee player cannot leave the team that drafted him without taking such a huge pay cut that no player will ever be able to do what Lebron did again. Personally, I don’t think someone that is among the very best in the world should be indentured to a bad management situation for his entire career simply based on the drawing of a ping pong ball. The comparisons of OKC and San Antonio don’t mean that you have to ace every draft pick to be a successful small market team, they’re just examples of all world players, Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan, choosing to stay in small markets because they had faith that the management would put them in a position to win in the future and their primes wouldn’t be squandered like Kevin Garnett’s in Minnesota or Charles Barkley’s in Philadelphia. In a few years, I believe Blake Griffin should have the freedom, both contractually and economically, to leave Los Angeles if he’s willing to take a moderate pay cut and wants to get away from the Clippers’ egotistical, competitively inept owner. I don’t believe that we should lose a season because Dan Gilbert disagrees.