CLEVELAND — Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert learned a few things when his franchise lost superstar LeBron James through free agency in July 2010.
One, make sure you get something of value in return.
Two, don’t make guarantees.
Gilbert revisited that fateful summer while meeting with the media Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena prior to his team’s season opener against Washington, largely because Oklahoma City recently traded All-Star James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first-round picks.
Gilbert liked what the Thunder got in return for Harden, understood the team would have faced paying a heavy luxury tax if it had re-signed the guard and realized OKC could not tie up virtually all its money in three stars (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Harden).
Gilbert learned not to give up something for nothing the hard way, having lost James to Miami for nothing more than a last-second $14 million trade exception that was never used by the Cavs.
“The big lesson was, if your player is not willing to extend (his contract) — no matter who they are, no matter where they are playing, no matter what kind of season you had — you can’t risk going into a summer and having them leave through unrestricted free agency and get nothing back for it,” Gilbert said.
Soon after James announced live on ESPN that he was signing with the Heat, Gilbert unleashed a venomous anti-James letter to fans that landed him a $100,000 fine. In it, he guaranteed the Cavs would win a title before the Akron native did. Miami defeated Oklahoma City in five games in the 2012 NBA Finals, while the rebuilding Cavs are a league-worst 40-108 since James’ departure.
“Looking back, that was probably not the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done,” Gilbert said of the guarantee.
The owner, however, did find a silver lining in James and Miami winning it all.
“When they won, it was the end of the end of the end of the end of that whole thing,” he said. “In a way, it was a little bit of a relief.”
Gilbert also touched on a number of other topics:
On Cavs coach Byron Scott: “He’s done a fantastic job. … He’s as solid a guy as you’re ever going to meet. He never gets too high and he never gets too low. … He walks in with a ton of credibility. He’s very knowledgeable and very smart. He has a reputation for developing young players. We’re very excited, and we’re very excited he’s excited.”
On new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III, with whom he’s had a 45-minute phone conversation and exchanged emails but has not yet met in person: “He seems like the right guy for this town. He’s absolutely passionate about winning.”
On season-ticket sales, which he said were renewed from last season at better than a 90 percent rate: “(The fans’) support drives us. It really does. We’re very happy with Cleveland and the fans. We wouldn’t want to own a franchise in any other city.”
Driving into the trees is normally a figurative phrase for an NBA guard. It nearly became a literal one for Cavs veteran Daniel Gibson on Tuesday morning as he attempted to commute from his Westlake home to Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence for the team’s shootaround.
“It was crazy trying to get out of my subdivision,” Gibson said. “I almost didn’t make it. I normally come toward the (Interstate) 480, but there was a big tree down in the street. I turned around to go the other way and the police had that road blocked off. I had to go down a couple streets to maneuver back to the (Interstate) 90 highway. At first, I didn’t think I was going to make it off the block. All the lights were off.”
Gibson lost power at his home Monday night, but a generator kicked on. He said that shut down as well around 3 or 4 a.m. Tuesday. Like Gibson, Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson and reserve swingman C.J. Miles had trees down in their neighborhoods, while small forward Alonzo Gee had been without power at his Rocky River home since 9 p.m. Monday when he showed up for shootaround.
“I had my laptop. That was my only light,” Gee said. “I didn’t have any candles, so I wasn’t prepared for it. (The laptop) eventually died, though, so I was in the dark.”
Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving lost five pounds after having four wisdom teeth pulled Wednesday, but was full-go for the opener. The second-year pro returned to practice Sunday and Monday.
“I was fine,” Irving said. “My dad was forcing me to stay in bed, honestly. I was up and ready to go.”
Irving, who grew up in New Jersey, was in contact with friends and family members in the area and said they had managed to escape the worst of the weather.
“It’s crazy to see those things happening,” he said. “I actually saw a shark swimming by somebody’s front door. It’s crazy. I wish all (those people) the best. I’m praying for them.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.