Gilbert looks to bring championship to Cleveland
CLEVELAND (AP) Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, following an offseason of big spending, has put his team in a position to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in 51 years.
The Cavaliers, who opened their home season Friday night against Miami, are one of the favorites to win the NBA title. Gilbert’s spending raised Cleveland’s payroll to $110 million, which has given fans hope the Cavaliers will seize the city’s first title since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964.
”For us it’s about winning a championship for Cleveland,” said Gilbert, who bought the team in 2005. ”That’s really what we’re driven by. There’s no people as sports fans from a city that are as passionate as there are in Cleveland. We feel it’s our obligation to deliver a championship.”
After losing to Golden State in the NBA Finals last season, Gilbert and general manager David Griffin went to work, making a series of moves to help the Cavaliers take that last step.
LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Matthew Dellavedova, J.R. Smith and James Jones, members of last season’s team, were re-signed. Cleveland also signed free agents Richard Jefferson and Mo Williams, and brought over veteran center Sasha Kaun from Europe.
The Cavaliers, who split their first two games this season, are playing without Kyrie Irving (left kneecap) and Shumpert (wrist). No timetable has been given for Irving’s return while Shumpert is expected back in January.
The Cavaliers started 19-20 last season, but became the league’s hottest team over the final four months. Cleveland rolled through the Eastern Conference playoffs before losing in six games in the Finals, which they played without Love and Irving, who were injured.
James received an anti-inflammatory injection in his back during training camp and played in only two preseason games. Love dislocated his left shoulder in the first round of the playoffs and was brought along steadily before playing the final two exhibition games. Thompson missed most of camp in a contract holdout, but signed the week before the season began.
”It’s a long season,” Gilbert said. ”You get them one at a time. We couldn’t be more excited.”
Coach David Blatt, beginning his second season with the Cavaliers, praised Gilbert and Griffin.
”This summer we made some good moves bringing in three players that I think can really help us, and we have 11 guys from our team last year,” Blatt said. ”So we combine continuity with some pretty good acquisitions. When we get everybody healthy and everybody playing, I think that’s going to bode very well for our team.”
Gilbert isn’t overly concerned about James’ back, which also bothered the four-time MVP last season.
”LeBron has been playing basketball since he was 14 years old,” Gilbert said. ”For a person who’s had that many basketball minutes on him, he’s in tremendous shape. He takes care of his body unlike any athlete that I know of.”