Since LeBron James left Cleveland after the nationally televised debacle known simply as “The Decision,” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sent a letter to fans bathed in bitterness. Since that time, cooler heads have prevailed, and now the Cavs still think they can land LeBron; except, the firing of former GM Chris Grant and the subsequently morose Zydrunas Ilgauskas may have opened the same wounds that made James’ return to Ohio completely untenable.
In a piece from the Akron Beacon Journal‘s Jason Lloyd about the “surreal” events surrounding James’ decision to attend former teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas‘ jersey retirement ceremony on Saturday night, Lloyd revealed a little something about Cleveland’s attempts to entice LeBron into returning to Cleveland if he decides to opt-out this summer on the remaining year of his Heat deal.
The architect of Z’s big night was close personal friend, and former Cavs general manager, Chris Grant. That’s where the surreal part comes in because Grant had gone out of his way to repair a fractured relationship between the Cavs and James and had set Cleveland up to land one or two big free agents this summer if those players tell their teams they won’t re-sign in 2015. Those free agents would have in turn been a part of Grant’s proposal to get James back to Ohio. As we know, that didn’t happen:
Yes, the Cavs underachieved this season. Yes, Grant tried feverishly for the past two years, but could never find that second star to pair with Kyrie Irving and ultimately serve as the bait to lure James back to the Cavs.
But the Cavs privately believe it’s not too late. They still have the assets to pull off a mammoth trade this summer at the draft, the type Grant tried so hard to make. Kevin Love will be entering the final year of his contract, as will LaMarcus Aldridge. Grant tried for two years to unsuccessfully pry both stars out of their current cities, but each had too many years left on their contracts for their current teams to consider it. That’s no longer true.
If either the Minnesota Timberwolves or Portland Trail Blazers come to the conclusion they can’t re-sign their stars, this summer is the time to move them and the Cavs will be at the front of the line, stocked with young players and future draft picks.
Even though Ilgauskas is still a part of the Cavs’ front office, he’s an assistant to the general manager, and that general manager has been canned. As Lloyd reports, Z is likely gone at the end of the year. Not only that, but Grant is close friends with LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, who also represent’s Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson. We’ll just let Lloyd explain how the Cavs are f**king this whole thing up:
But despite all the shots fired in Gilbert’s epic letter, Grant and Paul remained close. Having Thompson on the team kept the lines of communication open, then Paul conveniently took James as a client.
In order for LeBron to entertain the idea of some day returning to Cleveland, Grant had to repair that relationship. That’s what made the Yahoo Sports story a few weeks ago misguided. Grant was portrayed in it as the scapegoat, the bumbling general manager who missed on so many top picks in the draft and squandered away any chance at James returning.
In truth, Grant’s relationship with Paul was the launching point to any reasonable thought about James ever coming home.
Now Grant is gone and Ilgauskas, the man James adores, the man for whom he made this highly unusual trip, will likely be next. It’s an open secret in certain circles that Ilgauskas is unhappy in his role with the Cavs. He was the assistant to the general manager, only that general manager is gone.
Ilgauskas has become a ghost at Cavs games, rarely spotted around Cleveland Clinic Courts or the Q since Grant was fired. It’s what made Saturday’s ceremony so surreal. There remains palpable unhappiness from Ilgauskas toward certain facets of the organization…
To rehash the above: James is very close to Ilgauskas, as we saw when he chartered his own jet on an off-day to be at Z’s jersey retirement ceremony. Z is close friends with former Cavs GM Chris Grant; Grant is close friends with LeBron’s agent Rich Paul. But the Cavs, after firing Chris Grant, and throwing him under the bus for the team’s fortunes so far this year, are now likely to cut ties with LeBron’s close friend Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And Grant got Cleveland in a position to compete for the services of Love and Aldridge this summer, should they inform their teams to think about dealing them since they won’t re-sign.
It’s just one big clusterf**k in Cleveland after another if Lloyd’s article proves accurate representation of what’s transpired.
(Akron Beacon Journal; H/T EOB)
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