"Dear Dan Gilbert": Cleveland Cavaliers owner needs to think carefully about future of team

The Cavaliers seem to be on the verge of a total meltdown. Prior to the NBA's trading deadline, we offer some unsolicited advice to team owner Dan Gilbert.

February 6, 2018

To: Mr. Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans Arena

Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Dan,

We need to talk.

There is a black cloud hovering over the Q and Cleveland Clinic Courts right now. And it's not from the weather front that is moving in this evening. Your franchise is in serious trouble.

After tonight's ridiculous loss to the 16-36 Orlando Magic, your Cavs have now lost 14 of their last 21 games. What's worse is that your players look like they're not even trying out there. They scored NINE points in the fourth quarter. That's only nine more than you and I scored this evening. And we weren't in uniform.

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Your players are at war with each other, as evidenced by the tumultuous meeting that was held last month in which a faction of the team, led by Isaiah Thomas, questioned the legitimacy of Kevin Love's illness. We just found out today from Jason Lloyd of The Athletic that LeBron James got into a verbal shouting match with some of your executives in that same gathering that was supposed to 'clear the air.' We'll get back to that James guy in a second.

Your head coach seems to be frustrated with your hand-picked general manager, as evidenced by comments made this morning during shootaround. “I don’t know,” Ty Lue said when asked if the Cavaliers were involved in any trade talks to bolster the roster. “A little jolt? I don’t know. We’ll see. You’ll have to talk to Koby (Altman).”

And yes, there's that LeBron problem.

I give you a lot of credit for swallowing your pride and flying down to Florida to mend fences with the man you accused of 'cowardly betrayal,' conducting 'a shameful display of selfishness,' in that now famous letter after 'The Decision.' But you did it, and you went all-in on building a winner around LeBron James. No one can argue with the results: Cleveland's first major sports championship since 1964, three Eastern Conference titles, a city that felt like it rose from the ashes in that magical year of 2016.

But that was then. This is now. And there's a problem.

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Your relationship with your superstar is at an all-time low. Normally, it's not been an issue if you and your four-time MVP don't communicate. That's what David Griffin and Rich Paul were for. But things are toxic according to just about everyone who is around this basketball team. Take this from Lloyd's piece:

Whereas Griffin would consult with James and keep him informed of major roster decisions, that is no longer happening. James doesn't trust this front office, and there is no communication now between management and star player.

You can't do this. You can't lock LeBron out. I don't care how angry his passive-aggressiveness makes you. I don't care how much it might sting your pride to have to run key decisions past a player instead of just pulling the trigger yourself. It's LeBron Freaking James. He is the most important person in your organization. Yes, it's a challenge to pacify him sometimes. But if you ever wonder if it gets to be too much, just look up at the banners in your rafters. It's worth it, trust me.

Look, you made a huge mistake this summer by divorcing yourself from Griffin. We can't undo that at this point. You doubled down on the mistake by trading your second-best player, an MVP-caliber talent in his own right, to a rival in the same conference. The result has been acquiring a guy that wasn't healthy, can't play a lick of defense, and has issues letting go of being traded by the Celtics. I've heard you kind of like this guy and reportedly have exchanged calls and text messages with him. That's not a good thing.

You've also gotten a guy that defines inconsistency, plus a draft pick that isn't nearly as valuable now as it was last summer. It was a bad trade Dan, but in this case, you might be able to undo some of the damage.

Here's my advice to you:

1. Be the leader of this franchise like you were the leader of Detroit's pursuit of Amazon HQ2. Like you are the leader of Quicken Loans. Be the bigger man and have a serious conversation with James. If you have to go through Paul, fine. But have a talk about this team and where it's going. LISTEN to LeBron. Make your points about his refusal to commit beyond this season. If you guys can't come up with a way to co-exist or compromise, at least you've tried. But this cold war stuff has to end.

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2. Blow up this roster. That means everyone short of James, Love, Dwyane Wade, and maybe Jeff Green is available. That means Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose is expendable. There is zero chemistry on this team. Thomas said it himself after tonight's game when he told ESPN's Dave McMenamin: “When adversity hits, we go our separate ways."

That mentality has to go. He has to go.

If you can't bring in players who can help this team win now, you can sell the fans on making a tactical retreat to reload for next season. You still have the Brooklyn pick as a chip to use around the time of the NBA Draft, but before free agency hits. Or you can get two rookies in here to help deliver a shot of youthful energy to an aging roster.

But this franchise can't keep going in this direction. If it does, you know what will happen, because you've been there before:

  • James will leave, and this time you won't have the fans behind you
  • Your team will be irrelevant, like it was between 2010-14. I know, because I co-hosted many of the post-game radio shows after your games in those wasteland years.
  • The value of your franchise will plummet, despite the renovations that are coming to the Q. If Stephen A. Smith was right, and you were looking to sell the team...good luck with that.

Dan, we all make mistakes. Hell, I probably made a few in this letter. We aren't perfect. However, you have the power to correct some of the mistakes you made last summer and get this franchise back on a straight path.

Think very, very carefully about what you do and say over the next few days, Dan. The future of your franchise may very well depend on it.

Good luck. We're all counting on you.