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Dan Gilbert talks in new interview, says nothing

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In an interview with the Akron Beacon Journal, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert spoke to Jason Lloyd about the team’s disappointing season, the future of the organization and LeBron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat. HHH looks at what was said – and not said – and how it could impact Miami’s future.

Gregory Shamus

Dan Gilbert just can't seem to stay behind the scenes and there's a good chance he wouldn't want it any other way.

As someone who covers the Miami Heat and lived in South Florida for decades, it's apparent that the personalities of Gilbert and, say, Heat owner Micky Arison have truly defined how their respective organizations are viewed.

Arison, ever behind-the-scenes, immediately hired Pat Riley when he became the Heat's majority owner. Riley had served as the face of the franchise since 1995. That mantle has been passed on to Erik Spoelstra as Riley confirmed in a recent interview:

"We don't want a lot of people out there making statements to the media that can contradict one another."

For Cavaliers fans this must be a refreshing concept.

Gilbert was interviewed by the Akron Beacon Jounal's Jason Lloyd and gave his thoughts on the past, present and future of the Cavaliers organization. There were some curious responses from Gilbert, particularly in reference to Heat superstar - and Akron native and former Cavs player - LeBron James.

James, as you might recall, left Cleveland in 2010 to join the Heat and was publicly attacked by Gilbert in an open missive to Cavaliers fans.

If James' announcement was identified as "The Decision," Gilbert's response - scathing, petty and, in retrospect, utterly ludicrous - has since been known as "The Letter."

Gilbert's interview revealed that, nearly four years later, he has no regrets about writing the letter. In fact, just the opposite.

"I don't regret sending a letter out to our fan base. People forget the letter was not to LeBron, it was to our fan base. If I had to do it again, for sure, I would've reworded several parts of it. But I think it definitely needed a strong statement from me at that time. I keep a couple binders on my desk and I have a binder of the responses to The Letter from the people of Cleveland. There's thousands, maybe 2,000 from every facet of life, from CEOs of big companies to hand-written letters from 94-year-old ladies, from street sweepers to policemen and firemen. The response went way beyond."

Other nuggets from the interview include this deliberately ambiguous response regarding whether Gilbert has had any contact with James since 2010:

"I just can't get into that because he's under contract to another team."

Gilbert's vague response is necessary to preclude himself from any accusations of tampering with James' future, one that is very much up in the air. LeBron can choose to opt out of his contract this summer and returning to Cleveland, possibly to repair the damage to the Cavaliers' fan base, is seen as a potential destination.

But underlying his answer is the very base of who Gilbert is as an owner - a person who lacks self-awareness, can't recognize his faults and is willfully misleading.

Gilbert could just have easily said, "no" to Lloyd's question, and still avoided claims of tampering. But his response is just open-ended enough that there's a possibility, however remote, that there has been communication between the owner and his former player.

Gilbert digs at Miami later in the interview, when praising Chris Grant, the former Cavaliers general manager, for his skill in acquiring future assets, including a 2015 draft pick from Miami that was part of the deal that sent James to the Heat.

Grant was just fired nine days ago.

Gilbert said this of the Heat's pick:

"...we still have the Miami pick in '15 - and who knows what happens there, by the way - there's a lot of things that can happen."

Again, the implication is that the Heat, who could lose several members of the current roster to free agency, is living on borrowed time. Their recent success notwithstanding, there's a chance Miami's future might lie at the bottom of the NBA standings, thereby resulting in a higher draft pick for Cleveland.

This interview - more than the chance to repair his image in Cleveland or the chance to play with All-Star Kyrie Irving - will impact James' choice to rejoin the Cavaliers organization.

LeBron has the choice to remain in a stable organization that has clear leadership structure, or he could rejoin the team that is led by a vain, delusional and arrogant man. Gilbert publicly insulted him and wished James nothing but failure, claiming his tenure in Miami - one that has since been highlighted by repeated trips to the NBA finals and two consecutive championships - would be "cursed."

When asked if the team had felt any negative impact over the last four years, Gilbert responded, that he hasn't "felt it or been aware of it," despite never making the playoffs and being viewed by the media and fans as a team in total disarray.

You get the feeling "delusional" doesn't seem strong enough to label Gilbert's unique brand of rewritten history, or his inability to perceive his team's current failures as anything but encouraging.

Gilbert seems incapable of admitting defeat, being able to sweep it all under the auspices of doing it for the fans. The Cavaliers lack leadership, his players come to blows in the locker room, he can't rebuild through the draft or via free agency and yet Gilbert has the audacity to compare Cleveland as a destination for free agents comparable to Los Angeles or New York.

He talks about wanting a new general manager that understands the "human equation," even when he clearly lacks that same understanding.

So Cleveland is in the running to re-acquire James this summer, as Gilbert hints but can't - or won't - clearly say. It's a basketball mecca, an alluring option for athletes who are immune to confrontation, chaos and, most of all, continued failure.

Sorry, Mr. Gilbert. That's not happening.

Perhaps you and the Cavaliers would best be served by focusing on the team's actual problems and coming up with real solutions. Maybe if you had, James would still be wearing a Cavs jersey.

And, in the future, stay away from the limelight. It's your team - and not your mouth - that should be making the news.