Happy Friday WFNY. Happy holiday weekend and here’s hoping you have Monday off too. This is one of those weeks where I’m just attacking one topic and it happens to feel advantageous to be the last one to weigh in on the Cavaliers and Dan Gilbert…
Why do we have to be sad?
If I told you that you could have the ear of the President of the United States of America, are you saying that you wouldn’t take advantage? That’s not a defense of Dan Gilbert and his Cleveland fan faux pas at the White House this week with the Cubs. It’s the leading sentence in a post on a sports website that realizes that things just aren’t always as simple as we want them to be.
I’m not shocked that Dan Gilbert would be involved with Republicans in general, or even one of the most historically unpopular Presidents in my lifetime more specifically. It’s like the San Antonio Spurs title in a strike-shortened NBA season. You win the games that they put on the schedule, and you take the meetings with the guy who holds the office.
I’ve also spent a lot of time on the podcast recently discussing how it’s not necessarily as bad for the Cavaliers as it feels from the outside. LeBron James is still on the very best team in the Eastern Conference. Until that fact is proven otherwise, it’s not likely that anything will change with LeBron James and the team.
However, if you were going to write up a bunch of scenarios where you could take the Cavaliers realistic Eastern Conference superiority and start whittling cracks into the foundation, your plan might look like Dan Gilbert’s summer. Dan Gilbert gets the credit for writing the checks, and he didn’t cause LeBron James to leave the first time, despite writing his infamous letter, but it just seems like everything hinges on him. He’s the one who couldn’t get a deal done with David Griffin. He’s the one who hasn’t finalized a deal with the sole rumored candidate, Chauncey Billups. He’s the one who projects an image that makes me think his self-image is some combination of Warren Buffet and Tony Robbins.
Even if it were just about basketball, it would be so much easier for Cleveland fans when dealing with Dan Gilbert. It’s just not possible. Even beyond the partisan preferences and the White House visit, Dan Gilbert owns a huge portion of all legal betting in the State of Ohio via casinos. When I think of that, I don’t think of how beautful that casino is in the Higbee building in downtown Cleveland. Instead, I can’t help but think Dan Gilbert might never build the magnificent casino building that we were virtually promised when that vote was cast.
None of this is to forget the controversial deal to renovate The Q that has dangled a Cavaliers lease extension to 2034 and renovations to all Cleveland neighborhood basketball courts on the scale against public contributions to the project that are estimated to be $70 million before interest and probably more like $100 million after. Even if you’re someone who believes in the public-private partnership for professional sports, it feels pretty icky to have a lease extension be a part of it. That’s some negative signaling that a Cavaliers move out of town could have ever even been on the table.
Whether it’s all his fault or not in each situation contributing to the overall narrative, Dan Gilbert sits in the middle of it all. Is Dan Gilbert good or bad for the city of Cleveland? Is Dan Gilbert a good or a bad NBA owner? The answers to these questions are both yes and both no. It just depends.
WFNY is a sports website, and we’re just trying to be sports fans. The Cavaliers are a team that’s barely a calendar year removed from being the World Champions with the league’s best player and some of the best prospects to be champs again. Why is it that we can’t just feel good about this whole thing? Even in the face of pretty overwhelming success, it seems like certain disaster is daring to pop around the corner and stab us in the heart.
The results kind of just stink for all of us. We have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, the biggest arena jumbotron we could ever want, a thriving restaurant business and burgeoning culture in the region and yet in the summer of 2017, it’s exceedingly difficult to look on the bright side and try to enjoy it. That’s a failure. It’s something that could become contagious.
So is it a big deal that the Cavaliers don’t have a GM right now? Is it a big deal that Dan Gilbert was at the White House and took pictures with the Cubs? Is it a big deal that the Q deal is destined for a date with the Ohio Supreme Court? Well, when you add it all up, it sure feels like a big deal. It’s like a nice hot 85-degree pool day when the skies are cloudy. You might get a tan, and you won’t be cold in the pool, but you can’t escape the feeling that it might start raining at any moment. Why can’t we just have nice things?