Dan and Nick Gilbert continue to defy the odds

Gilbert and Cavs win lotteryWhen Nick Gilbert came away with the fourth-overall pick in last year’s NBA lottery, he was disappointed. Just fifteen years old at the time, the son of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ majority owner felt that he had let down an entire fan base that so badly wanted to return to prominence. After all, it was this very dais that made him a nationally known name amongst NBA fans. The ‘beginners luck’ that had been such a gift one year earlier became a bit of a curse.

Fans of opposing teams, doing what they do, took shots at the teenager who suffers from neurofibromatosis, a nerve disorder that causes tumors to sprout on a whim. Kids at school, doing what they do, began to chop Gilbert down in what was his moment of vulnerability, telling him that he was “nothing special.” But it would be just one year later that the oldest son of the Cavaliers’ owner can not only proudly return to school, but can do so having officially christened with being his father’s good luck charm.

“It’s Nick Gilbert,” Dan Gilbert told WFNY via conference call on Tuesday night when asked about to what he attributes such odds-defying luck. “I’m going to have to start taking him to card games with me.”

Though losing vision in his right eye due to his illness, Nick had the foresight to know that once his dad’s team made it to the final three, that there was a very good chance one of those final two envelopes had a wine and gold Cavaliers logo inside of it. The Washington Wizards managed to leapfrog several teams, but to lock up the top spot, they would have had to essentially replicate what the Cavs did in 2011. But once the Orlando Magic logo appeared, having been pulled out of the No. 2 spot, it comes with little surprise that the crowd of individuals who went to support the Cavaliers on this very night would yell “Atta boy, Nickey. Atta boy.”

Certainly, Nick Gilbert will never see his name within an NBA box score. He won’t be counted on to sink a game-winner. He won’t be playing man defense against an opposition’s biggest scoring threat. At the very least, he will just roam the halls within the bowels of Quicken Loans Arena as he has in the past. But everywhere he goes, especially within Cleveland, rest assured that Nick Gilbert may never win another NBA Lottery again, and he is already a legend in the eyes of many. Certainly, there’s no skill involved when it comes to hunching over a team-addled podium while waiting for your name to be called. With Nick Gilbert, it’s about presence.

That the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft Lottery just two years ago had zero bearing on their chances this past Tuesday night. Certainly, the odds of winning the lottery once—especially with the slot that provided a 2.8 percent chance of doing so—was miraculous enough. The odds of the Cavaliers winning both lotteries with the slots through which they did was an even more miniscule 0.4 percent. But once the Cavaliers and their evidently all-too-rowdy contingent settled into Seacaucus, New Jersey, it was a bow-tied Nick Gilbert and a 15.6 chance of repeating similar fortune.

“In 2011, our odds were just 2-point-something percent with the spot that won,” said Gilbert. “They were a little more realistic this time, but we are still very, very excited.”

It is easy to assume that “excited” is just one line item on a laundry list of emotions. Gilbert comes off as being fiery and impatient at times, combative and impeding at others. But underneath all of the soundbites and unfortunate font choices is a man who continues to keep his eye on the ultimate prize.

As a recent New York Times profile laid out, Gilbert is a man who thinks big picture. He takes on reclamation projects, spurns growth, and motivates subordinates. Within the confines of a conference room on the executive levels of The Q, there is a clock that is similar to that of the national debt only it counts the time that has elapsed since the city of Cleveland last won a title in a major professional sport. A constant reminder, the focal point of every decision that is made.

Some of these decisions obviously carry more weight than others. Mid-level free agents may be considered interchangeable. Trading bench fodder for future draft selections kicks the proverbial can down the road. But when a team acquires the first-overall draft choice in any given year—regardless of what the consensus is when it comes to overall talent level—the Cavaliers are afforded the opportunity to take yet another step forward to making that clock reset.

The cannon is now squarely pointed in the direction if Cleveland’s general manager Chris Grant. Four draft picks, one of them being the largest of them all, and a boat load of cap space are all at his disposal. Both Dan and Nick Gilbert made it very apparent that they have no plans to return to Secaucus, New Jersey any time soon—especially not for an NBA Draft Lottery.

While Grant was addressing the media on Tuesday night, he allegedly received an email from a Gilbert address, but it was not from his boss. It was from Nick, the 16-year-old kid who was given another chance to go out on top when it comes to his days as a good luck charm. The contents were a playful exchange of the baton: “I did my job. Now you have to do yours.”

It is with those two lines that Nick Gilbert laid out that his time here was done. He can’t provide the help-side defense that this Cavaliers team so surely needs. He can’t be the guy to help Kyrie Irving shoulder the load on the offensive end. He can only stand in as a representative. The rest depends on how much you believe in intangibles like luck, karma and mere good fortune.

Dan Gilbert doesn’t quite know how much stock to put into all of the hardwood tarot cards, but the casino owner knows that, with the help of his son, he took a hand of cards that was largely stacked against him and turned it into the exact river card he needed to come out the victor. The size of the pot is all ancillary.

“I’m not sure how this happened twice,” said Gilbert, “but we’ll take it.”

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Kind of a shame alot of people are talking about the way the entourage acted and have lost sight of the real reason behind Nick Gilbert being at the lottery. Part of me wishes this whole thing hadn’t been turned into a circus because not only does it detract from the story of Nick Gilbert but frankly it doesn’t look good for the Cavaliers. It also makes me think back to all of the issues with the entourage of one LeBron James. Kind of ironic.

  • I’d argue that painting a group of fans as an “entourage” would be dishonest. If the lottery is a place where only A-list dignitaries are supposed to congregate, that’s news to me. Apologies to the rest of the country that out contingent isn’t all Hollywood.

  • Doesn’t look good? That we have an owner that is passionate about winning and understands/embraces the city of Cleveland? What doesn’t look good?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m guessing the NBA will modify who/how many are allowed to attend next year.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Nice use of the straw man technique my comment has nothing to do with the passion of the owner or Cleveland it was about the people around him and Nick. Clearly you didn’t see the way some acted and even if you had you’d probably excuse it anyways.

  • Please explain, before I get accused of using another technique, how they were acting and why it was so bad

  • MrCleaveland

    The fact that Nick Gilbert felt that he had let down an entire fan base is idiotic. And the notion that he is to be congratulated for “winning” the lottery a second time is just as idiotic. He had nothing to do with anything, good or bad.

    “I did my job”??? He didn’t do anything!

    Look, this is a nice feel-good story and all, but let’s get a grip on reality.

  • mgbode

    I did and have no issue with it. They enjoyed the evening. Much like you would cheer winning an actual lotto, they cheered winning this one. And, the fact he brings a bunch of people with Cleveland ties other than the Cavs should be seen as a positive IMO.

    Why aren’t people allowed to just have fun?

  • mgbode

    He’s the token good luck charm and his seat at the table lets him feel as if he is apart of the team. I don’t see this harm in that either.

  • This is all laid out clearly in today’s post at Cleveland Frowns. Thank you.

  • Jay

    For what it’s worth, the 2 loudest people cheering were Rizzo & Goldhammer from WKNR. I rewound & played about 5 times to verify it was them. I also saw MGK, but surprisingly, he wasn’t the one being rowdy.

  • Steve

    What is an entourage if it’s not a group of fans?

    There seems to be no limit on who you can bring up, but there is an understanding among everyone, except Cleveland apparently. I don’t have a problem with a few people up there. But MGK as an ambassador for our city, really? Rizzo whooping it up in his usual childish manner doesn’t shine us in a great light, and bringing fans along, pretty much just for the sole purpose of good PR for a bad team, none of these are necessary.

    It reminds me of how draft day is the Super Bowl for Browns fans. It’s kind of embarassing that the biggest day of the year for our teams is about how awful the season went. Most of the team representatives weren’t whooping it up because being in the lottery year after year is a bad thing for the team, not a good thing.

  • Steve

    What winning? They were passionate that the team sucked enough that they had enough combinations to win the lottery.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Certainly people can have fun but you can do it without being over the top. I guess this goes to yesterday’s piece by Ryan “I love the lottery” Jones in that celebrating the fact that you pick first because you were bad for the second time in the past three years really isn’t all that great, at least not to me. I’m obviously alone in this feeling.

    My initial comment was meant to support Nick Gilbert and defend his father for why Nick attends. For people who aren’t familiar with it the way the entourage, fans whatever you call them, kind of diminished Nick’s story. As many know I’m not a Dan Gilbert fan but I didn’t let that cloud my opinion and throw him under the bus. I’m strictly talking about the other people.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I cringed at the use of the word “token.” I understand what you mean but still.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    BINGO! The fact that MGK despite appearances wasn’t the one people noticed the most tells you all you need to know.

  • I’m pretty sure that Goldhammer was not there.

  • MrCleaveland

    I don’t see any harm in it either. I just don’t see any meaning in it. The kid doesn’t deserve one ounce of praise or blame, especially blame. Sheesh.

  • Steve

    Hear, hear.

  • Steve

    BTW, nice article, you hit the nail on the head, especially in regards to Gilbert and the hero-worship he gets.

  • “Why aren’t people allowed to just have fun?”

    Bingo. This is freaking sports, people. Have fun with it. Laugh it you want to, shout in joy if you want to. Do what makes you happy. So much dumb drama over something that means absolutely nothing.

  • Steve

    I’m pretty sure no one is saying they can’t have fun. They just wonder what’s so fun about picking at the top of the lottery?

  • Getting the first pick in the draft isn’t fun? That’s not worth being excited about? That’s news to me. But even still, if you want to be miserable about it, that’s fine. That’s your choice. But if others want to be happy about it, so be it. Again, this is all ridiculously silly.

  • Steve

    But the Cavaliers were determined to make a big party of it before they knew they had the #1 pick. The party was planned when all it was doing was recognizing a pretty crappy season.

    If they ended up with the #6 pick, then how does having the entourage look?

  • If they got the #6 pick, I doubt we would have seen them. They certainly wouldn’t have been cheering.

    And I doubt Dan Gilbert said “Hey, lets get a bunch of people together and really celebrating sucking!” I’d imagine it was probably more of “Hey, we’ve got this draft lottery thing coming up, lets get a group of people to represent Cleveland and just go and have some fun, support Nick, and see what pick we can get out of this.”

    But really, I don’t have a problem if you don’t like it. I have a problem if you’re telling other people that they should have a problem with it. I don’t think there’s an inherent right or wrong quality to this. It’s all about how any of us choose to perceive it. At the end of the day, this is 10000% meaningless. It was a bunch of people who took a trip and had a good time, and when the Cavaliers got some good luck, they celebrated.

  • It’s like celebrating receiving a welfare payment but much worse, because the NBA is exponentially more fair than real life. Energy is limited and precious. Let the fire burn, save the steam for when you actually have an accomplishment to celebrate.

    When Gilbert makes such a scene about the draft lottery it strengthens all the worst inferences about him, including that he disproportionately prioritizes attention and adulation, among other things.

    “Now’s our chance to have the spotlight, y’all. Let’s party!”

    This isn’t hard. It’s no surprise at all why the folks in the room, including Kevin Love, were laughing at the scene.

    What’s “ridiculously silly” is how quickly you are diving away from the real evidence that Gilbert is turning the Cavs and Cleveland into a laughingstock.

  • “Why aren’t people allowed to just have fun?”

    Bingo. Says the last guy at the party who wonders why everybody else left and where his pants are.

  • Thanks.

  • Eh, it’s all perception. I don’t have the energy to debate this because it truly doesn’t matter. Fine, you think it’s ridiculous and so does Zach Lowe and Kevin Love, evidently. Cool. I don’t care.

  • Steve

    Again, I don’t think anyone is telling others they should have a problem with it. This defense mechanism is happening way too frequently around here. An opinion is stated, and when someone says something even remotely contrary to that opinion, the first person blows up saying “you can’t tell me how to feel about something!”

    You’ve expended a lot of energy and put a lot of words in people’s mouths for a topic you claim to not care about.

    Regardless of what Gilbert said, the lottery is the culmination of a bad season, so it can be confusing to many non-Browns fans why this was such a big day for Cleveland. That’s what Lowe did. When MGK and Rizzo pulled out their usual shtick, and that’s what their immature behavior is, their shtick, its fair game for Lowe to point out they look like doofuses, but again, that’s what the two intend to do anyway.

  • “It truly doesn’t matter because I say it doesn’t” is not a legitimate response to folks who’ve offered you a logical explanation as to why it does matter.

    Anyway, fair enough, because I don’t have the energy to defend Gilbert’s clown show, either.

  • “You’ve expended a lot of energy and put a lot of words in people’s mouths for a topic you claim to not care about.”

    I assure you, it’s more about my bad habit of trying to get the last word in than it is about truly caring about this issue. But if it would have just been Dan Gilbert there, and a silent fist pump when they got the first pick, I wouldn’t be saying this is an outrage that they didn’t make a party out of that scene. I’m not pro-crazy behavior. I just don’t care that they chose to outwardly celebrate winning the draft lottery. I was celebrating loudly in my living room, so far be it for me to judge them for their behavior.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Gilbert tweeted too! I was hoping he learned his lesson on this one but I guess not.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    There’s a line about party in pants but I don’t wanna go there especially if it means getting Schnitkey’d!!!!

  • having fun after winning a lottery is the stupidest thing to be angry at ever.

  • The party…with the pants? The pants party?

  • mgbode

    did you go to college with me? and that only happened the one time.

  • mgbode

    yeah, he doesn’t deserve it, but, again, it’s fun. just like Gausman with his donuts and other superstitions. Or Bauer (to be more Cleveland-centric).

  • mgbode

    that part is simple. we will be a laughingstock if we don’t turn things around and start winning. no matter what else is going on. people don’t pen stories about the great franchise that wins 20 games per season. if we make the playoffs next year, or, at least, get very close to making them, then we will get away from that perception.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Can you confirm or deny the reports that most WFNY get togethers end with someone pantsless?

  • It happens a lot less now than it used to back when Denny was writing for us.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I miss Lenny! ;-)~

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “if we make the playoffs next year,” no more Kool-Aid for you! This is one of the reasons I can’t envision drafting Noel #1 given how much time he’ll miss.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea but it wasn’t like it was the Powerball now either!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Steve you sly dog you didn’t tell me you were having the same argument with other folks over on this thread. By the way I am joining team Schnitkey.

  • I think this will be very telling. As I said in the podcast, they can’t have it both ways. Either it’s an event worth marketing (and thus celebrating) or it isn’t.

  • thenoclist

    They weren’t celebrating a crappy season, they were celebrating the hope for the future that a #1 draft pick brings. Not that hard to understand.

  • We all do.