Dan Gilbert isn’t preparing for the end of the LeBron James era, he’s pushing for it. According to ESPN, Chauncey Billups was offered just $1.5 million to be the president of basketball operations of the Cleveland Cavaliers. That is 37% of what the normal starting salary for a big name general manager is these days.
Billups has no front office experience, but the Lakers just gave Rob Pelinka $5 million and it wasn’t that long ago that the Knicks gave Phil Jackson $12 million a year. Go ahead. Take a few minutes to have a good laugh.
While it’s kind of shocking that Gilbert would lowball Billups, it also makes perfect sense. David Griffin was making less than $2 million a year and the team went to three consecutive NBA Finals. It’s no surprise that Gilbert was looking to cut expenses, even if it meant going into draft night and the NBA free agency period without a general manager. You don’t have to pay a general manager if you don’t have a general manager.
So why is Gilbert being so cheap? When LeBron James was drafted in 2003 the Cavaliers were worth $222 million. Gilbert took over the Cavs in 2005 and by the time LeBron left the Cavaliers in 2010 they were worth $476 million. The team’s value dropped down to $329 million over the next two years, but by 2014 – after 4 consecutive losing seasons – the franchise’s worth had already climbed to $515 million. With LeBron back in Cleveland and a championship trophy in 2016 the team is now worth $1.2 billion, but they have already started losing money as Gilbert is forced to pay for a title contender. Via Forbes:
Three NBA teams, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, lost money last season and all three were the result of excessive payrolls that triggered the luxury tax. The Cavs won their first NBA Championship in franchise history, but the team lost $40 million due to $185 million in total player costs. The $40 million loss was the fifth biggest in the history of the NBA.
Sure, the Cavaliers are the 11th most valuable franchise, but Dan Gilbert doesn’t like spending money. And his luxury tax is about to go up again. He likes making money and hiring a fancy new general manager and paying him a competitive salary just isn’t in the cards. With LeBron James you have to spend. Without LeBron James you don’t have to. It seems Gilbert is just as happy putting a losing team on the floor and making a few million dollars than spending money and keeping the people of Cleveland happy. Even if it is just a pittance of his $5.9 billion worth.
The Cavaliers are screwed. Gilbert would probably faint if LeBron asked for a trade and he could just blow the entire team up immediately. Instead he has to pretend he wants the team to win for another season until he drives LeBron away again. And this time he won’t be coming back.