On second thought, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said he would have traded LeBron James instead of being in the weakened position of allowing James to bolt as an unrestricted free agent to Miami with his team receiving no compensation.
Gilbert had expressed anger and dismay when James announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” two years ago. Gilbert even said in a scathing open letter that his Cavaliers would win a championship before James.
Tuesday night, Gilbert said that if he and then-general manager Danny Ferry could do it all over again, they would have assured the team would get some assets in return instead of allowing James to leave a huge hole in the organization.
“The key thing, whoever you are and wherever you are, you cannot wait,” Gilbert said. ”The big lesson was if a player is not willing to extend, no matter who they are, no matter where they are playing, no matter what kind of season you had, you cannot risk going into a summer and having them leave in unrestricted free agency and get nothing back for it.”
Gilbert admitted there would have been some backlash to trading James at the height of his career.
“I’m sure the player or whoever would have said, ‘Of course I would have stayed. You guys screwed up and ruined the whole franchise.’ You’re in a no-win situation,” Gilbert said.
His proclamation of winning a title before James came back to haunt him in June, when James concluded a brilliant season with his first NBA title. That, according to Gilbert, should close that chapter of the aftermath of James’ departure.
“If you’re going to predict something that doesn’t happen and you’re going to do it publicly, you’d for sure take it back,” Gilbert said. “When that happened, when they won, it was the end of the end of the end of that whole thing. Now there’s nothing more to talk about.
“In a way it was like a little bit of a relief. If they didn’t win it, it would’ve been still another thing of who’s going to win it [first]?”
As for his team, “We want to win as much as the fans do,” Gilbert said. “No matter how long it takes, and no matter what it takes, we’re just going to keep going until we get there.”