CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – There is no doubt about the leadership of the Cleveland Cavaliers going forward.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made that abundantly clear Tuesday afternoon nearly 3 hours prior to tip off of year No. 3 of their rebuild in the post-LeBron era.
Gilbert extolled both general manager Chris Grant and coach Byron Scott and the jobs they have done to begin turning the Cavaliers back into contenders.
“I think he’s done a fantastic job,” Gilbert said of Scott. “He’s a great person, a great human being. He gets along with everybody. The players respect him on many levels. He has credibility not only as a player but ads a coach. He’s been to The Finals and won 3 times as a player and been to The Finals twice as a coach.
“I think we have the perfect guy for the time right now and we’re excited that he’s excited.”
The option on Scott’s contract for the 2013-14 season was picked up by the team 2 weeks ago.
“He really wants to be part of this,” Gilbert said. “He’s not here as a stop. He wants to build this thing with us and win championships.”
Those long desired championships have felt light years away the last 2 seasons with James in Miami. They have managed 19 and 20 wins since James took his talents to South Beach but Gilbert isn’t the least bit discouraged.
“Absolutely,” Gilbert said when asked if he was happy with the young roster assembled by Grant. “He’s very committed to his plan but is open to feedback. He’ll make final decisions on everything but he’ll look for as much feedback as he can get.
“You don’t see that in most professional sports’ general managers. They’re like, ‘It’s my way and that’s it,’ but he’ll take feedback and look under every hood and then make his own decision.”
He likes the youth that Grant has added in the draft from the selection of NBA rookie of the year Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson last year to the additions of Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller here in 2012.
While painful to take a few years to assemble high lottery picks to become a contender, it’s exactly what the Oklahoma City Thunder, who reached the NBA Finals last season, did.
“People are calling it the Oklahoma City model but it’s been done in basketball before,” Gilbert said. “Building through the draft, getting as many good young guys to bond together and build a team around I think is the way to go.”
Luckily for both Scott and Grant, Gilbert doesn’t measure progress strictly in wins and losses.
He also doesn’t want to quantify his expectations for this season.
“I want to see progress but I don’t think you can define it,” Gilbert said. “I think we’ll know it when we see it. You never know what can happen in any NBA season or any other sport.
“You never want to put limits on a team’s potential.”
Despite losing James in free agency and managing 40 wins in 2 years, fans remain patient and on Gilbert’s side as they rebuild the franchise on the court. That support has been a pleasant surprise for Gilbert and the organization.
“That’s been the best part of it throughout the last couple of years are the fans here,” Gilbert said. “They have really backed us and stayed with us. Their support has been what really drives us.
“We wouldn’t want to own a franchise in any other city because the fans are so great.”
Gilbert admitted that after James’ defection, they were concerned that fans would jump ship – but they haven’t.
“We worried so much that people were so frustrated here and they’d be frustrated with what happened in other sports in Cleveland that their support would wain but it hasn’t,” Gilbert said. “The emails and the tweets we get and letters we get; we get them from surgeons, street sweepers, from CEO’s and firemen. 90-year old women hand write them. It’s overwhelming and it fuels us. It fuels everyone here.
“No matter how long it takes, we’re just going to keep going until we get there.”
Gilbert has invested nearly $35 million into Quicken Loans Arena since purchasing the team in March of 2005.
This year is no different.
While new scoreboards are on the way for the 2013-14 season, this year Gilbert spent money to replace the playing floor, carpet on the service level and new WiFi service which will be up and running later this season.
All in all, his message to fans was simple – they want to win.
“We want to win as much as them,” Gilbert said. “It’s about winning for us as it is for them. What motivates us is winning and delivering for the fans. We will do whatever it takes however long it takes.”