LeBron James put Cleveland in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season Sunday night, and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert refuses to look past the upcoming seven-game series against either Houston or Golden State.
“It’s amazing,” Gilbert said after the game. “I think of the four (consecutive) Eastern Conference titles, this one feels special and the best. I think when you have so many challenges and things throughout the year that we’ve had and people have had around here — individual stuff, team stuff — and then you come out in really tough playoffs, full rounds, just there’s really something special about it.”
James’ future will be a hot topic entering summer.
His frosty relationship with Gilbert was on display during the trophy presentation Sunday night — James gave Gilbert the cold shoulder — and is no secret within or outside the Cavaliers’ organization. Most NBA insiders have said James is not returning to Cleveland in July, when he can exercise an option to get out of his contract and return to free agency.
“Like him, I think he’s said this, we’re just focused — and it’s the truth, it’s not avoiding the question — we’re literally focused on (the now),” Gilbert told ESPN. “It’s just so intense in the playoffs and getting to the Finals and now the Finals, I don’t think — and I know he doesn’t — I don’t think even our guys are talking (about anything other than) what’s in front of them. So, everybody knows, obviously what we want to happen and we’ll take the Finals first and take it from there.”
James’ option for next season is for $35.6 million. A decision on his 2018-19 destination will be the top storyline of the NBA offseason.
Fans of multiple teams have placed recruiting billboards near their home turf, including the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers are considered a possible destination despite limited recent success because their midseason trade with Cleveland opened up enough salary-cap space for Los Angeles to offer two maximum salary slots.
Many observers also expect the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks to be among the teams attempting to make a play for James.
In 2010 as a free agent, James’ rocky relationship with Gilbert helped push him to Miami. When he reached free agency again, James wrote a heartfelt letter anchored in the idea that the Akron, Ohio, native felt compelled to “come home” and re-signed with the Cavs.
“To me, it’s sort of one of those proof points that nothing is perfect in the world,” Gilbert told ESPN. “You can still have success and still have issues and things you overcome. Sometimes it makes you tougher, harder, stronger. Obviously, Bron, we’ve drawn off his specialness, especially this late in his career. I mean, everything about it has a theme. Sort of like that theme, ‘Whatever It Takes,’ wasn’t by mistake. It was by design and I’m very proud of the front office, the coaching staff, players, everything, everybody. It’s very, very humbling.”
—Field Level Media