CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has high hopes for his team this season.
So do fans.
“It’s a whole different feel around here,” Gilbert said. “We have higher expectations obviously than the last few years, the rebuilding years.
“There’s just a different chemistry in the locker room and I think in the whole organization.”
While avoiding the playoffs or bust mantra, Gilbert did say that he does feel that they could be a playoff team this season.
“I think there is an expectation that this team is a playoff contender,” Gilbert said. “But the NBA is a competitive place and anything can happen but I think that’s the expectations of coach and the players, the franchise, myself.”
Following the departure of LeBron James in the summer of 2010, Cleveland went into full-scale rebuild mode.
General manager Chris Grant ended up with 2 No. 1 picks, Kyrie Irving (2011) and Anthony Bennett (2013), a pair of No. 4 picks, Tristan Thompson (2011) and Dion Waiters (2012) as well as selecting Tyler Zeller 17th overall (2012) and Sergey Karesev No. 19 overall (2013).
But did the plan work?
It’s too early to tell but Gilbert is betting that it did.
“We had various people study how long does it take from when you hit that reset button in the NBA to become relevant again,” Gilbert said. “There’s different ways and different paths that you can get there; us obviously building through the draft primarily and then adding a few key pieces.
“You never know how long it is, but 3 years is a place where you should start being competitive again.”
The key with the rebuild is to keep Irving and get him to sign a max extension. Gilbert is confident Irving will want to stay.
“We don’t even frankly discuss that yet, it’s still a little bit early,” Gilbert said. “We feel good about Kyrie being here for his entire career. We think we set up an environment and a culture that’s conducive to him being not only an All-Star, but the leader of a championship-contending team.
“We’ll keep going until we get to that point, whether it’s this year or next year or whenever that may be.”
Gilbert also likes the relationship that coach Mike Brown and Irving have started.
“We have a good relationship with him,” Gilbert said. “The head coach, him and Mike Brown really kicked it off this summer; they really jelled. I’m looking forward to it.”
Cleveland added center Andrew Bynum, who has been recovering from knee injuries and surgeries, this summer and gave him an incentive-laden 2-year contract with a maximum of $25 million but only $6 million is guaranteed this season.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert re-hired Mike Brown, whom he fired prior to ‘The Decision,’ and has noticed an improved coach.
“He’s seems more confident and sure of the exact direction that he wants to go,” Gilbert said. “He very confident in his defensive first philosophy. He took a little bit of heat when he was here and when he was [in LA] on the other end of the floor and I don’t think that matters to him anymore.
“He’s just so focused on who he is and he know what he wants and it’s great to see.”
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