If I’m Dan Gilbert, I’m sending as many gift baskets and apology letters to LeBron James as possible right now.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, were it not for Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s scathing letter back in 2010 that followed LeBron’s departure for the Miami Heat, the King would have already made his decision to return back home with the Cavs. That letter on the Cavaliers website was still on the site as recently as last week.
Heading into the offseason, it seemed like a done deal LeBron James and the Big Three would be back in Miami next season. Dwyane Wade‘s knees looked like they were eroding faster than O.J. Mayo‘s health in the buffet line, but the Heat were coming off four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. The Indiana Pacers still aren’t good enough to beat Miami, even if they do re-sign Lance Stephenson and playing in the East, for a team that’s won two titles in four years, seemed like a no-brainer.
But LeBron appears to be tired of making concessions and somehow, the Cavs have a chance here. Two championships in four years was not the goal when he joined Miami and betrayed his hometown in a nationally televised Decision. Wade’s value reached lows in the NBA Finals it hasn’t seen since his rookie season and Chris Bosh gave even his kindest critics plenty of ammunition to call him soft and overrated.
Play with a declining SG or a hot-tempered owner. I understand why LeBron is mulling this carefully.
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) July 11, 2014
LeBron James probably knows the San Antonio Spurs simply brought out the worst in his teammates and no one can deny they were the better team. But that’s the problem: to win multiple titles and seriously throw his name in the ring for that Greatest Of All Time title we’re all so obsessed with, LeBron James’ team always needs to be the best team in the end. And the Miami Heat aren’t getting any better next season.
Part of not making concessions anymore is being paid like the world’s greatest player and though the timing is a bit curious for a guy who’s never been his team’s highest paid player, no one can fault him for wanting what’s his. But a max contract severely ties up Miami’s books, even with Wade and Bosh taking major pay cuts.
But Bosh isn’t even going to take one, especially after receiving a max offer from the Houston Rockets. That means Pat Riley has had limited cap room to work with, and dreams of Kyle Lowry and Carmelo Anthony have deteriorated to Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. Simply put, the Cleveland Cavaliers offer LeBron a chance at redemption, not only from a humiliating five-game defeat in the Finals but also from The Decision he made in 2010 that turned half the country against him. The goal would once again be winning a championship for his hometown team and even the haters would let up for just a moment if he were able to pull it off.
The funny thing is, LeBron actually could pull it off if the Cavs do a better job of surrounding him with talent. So far, they’ve done their best to make Cleveland as desirable a destination as possible. They signed star point guard Kyrie Irving to a contract extension, they traded Jarrett Jack and Tyler Zeller away in a three-team trade to make room for LeBron’s max deal and they lucked out with Andrew Wiggins as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Dan Gilbert, apologizing, eating crow about the letter and publicly begging is a small price to pay for Kyrie + Wiggins + LeBron
— Ben Cox (@WFNYBen) July 11, 2014
That kind of lineup of LeBron, Kyrie and Wiggins is young and versatile enough to start competing for Finals appearances next season. You were worried Wiggins would be a bust? Who better to mentor him than the world’s greatest player? You have questions about Kyrie Irving’s leadership and defense? Who better to motivate him than one of the game’s best team players and generals? Hell, I’d wager LeBron James could turn Anthony Bennett into a force to be reckoned with, given his propensity for turning bad teams into great ones.
Don’t forget the underrated impact LeBron has on a team. The year after LeBron left Cleveland, the Cavs went from a 61-21 record to a 19-63 record. That’s a difference of 42 wins, in case you were too flabbergasted to process that monumental gap. And is there any doubt even the reeling Pacers would have easily dismantled a LeBron-less Miami team this year?
The potential in Cleveland doesn’t stop there, either. Rumors have been circulating the Cavs would try to engineer a Kevin Love trade if they were able to land LeBron James. They’d almost certainly have to include Andrew Wiggins in the process, but a LeBron-Love-Kyrie trio would immediately skyrocket Cleveland’s chances of winning a title in 2014-15. A Cleveland Cavaliers team with LeBron James simply has more potential avenues to win multiple championships than the Miami Heat do right now.
The only thing stopping this happy story from coming true is Dan Gilbert. You can’t really blame LeBron either; how many of you would accept your former boss calling your promotion at a different job “cowardly,” let alone be willing to work for that boss again in the future? Especially if you were the best at what you do and the whole world was watching it all unfold?
Dan Gilbert said he doesn’t regret sending the letter, that he just should have reworded it a bit… In February. This is ridiculous.
— Nick Neuteufel (@Neuteufel) July 11, 2014
In other words, Dan Gilbert, get your apologetic ass on the phone and make some calls. Or, better yet, do what you did in 2010 and write the exact opposite of what you wrote then. Admit you were caught up in the moment and hurt and didn’t mean what you said. Admit you and the hundreds of people who set LeBron’s jersey on fire were wrong to do what you did. But most of all, note that the Cleveland fans’ shirts that read “forgiveness” aren’t about the Cavaliers forgiving LeBron’s departure; they’re about asking the King’s forgiveness from an owner who is the last roadblock to a potentially wonderful homecoming.
LeBron James wants to come home. His family and his agent want him to play for the Cavaliers and deep down, I think LeBron knows the idea of winning a title for his hometown team would enshrine him among the all-time greats in a place even he hasn’t reached yet. The only thing preventing thousands of YouTubers from putting together Cavs tribute videos set to “Coming Home” is you, Dan Gilbert.
Eat your bowl of crow, wash it down with a glass of your own words and serve up a sincere apology for dessert. You want to talk about cowardice? Not picking up the phone and making this right for the city of Cleveland would be about as cowardly as it gets.