If the Cavaliers do pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in modern history. Forget whatever Cinderella pops up in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavs are trying to get fit for the shiniest glass slipper, ever.
On Saturday night, the Cavaliers honored former player Zydrunas Ilguaskas. It was an emotional, nostalgia-heavy night to honor a player from the Cavs' hayday. Ilgauskas was the franchise cornerstone in the dark times before LeBron James landed in 2003, and he was the veteran mentor for James for seven years, before joining him in Miami for the ill-fated 2011 run before retiring. James was in attendance Saturday night for Ilgauskas' big night.
The Akron Beacon Journal reports on two very different narratives happening at the same time in regard to LeBron James' possble opt out into free agency this summer and a possible return to the Cavaliers. First, the Cavs have or soon will sever ties with two figures who are close to James. Ilgauskas is reportedly unhappy with his role in the organization as an assistant GM, and the firing of GM Chris Grant this season ends a strong tie between the organization and James' agent Rich Paul.
As for Ilgauskas' future, no one really expects Big Z to return to this role next season.
He made more than $124 million in his career, so he certainly isn't working for the money. Ilgauskas remains incredibly close to Grant and will probably move on to something else next year.
Yes, the Cavs underachieved this season. Yes, Grant tried feverishly for the past two years, but could never find that second star to pair with Kyrie Irving and ultimately serve as the bait to lure James back to the Cavs.
But the Cavs privately believe it's not too late. They still have the assets to pull off a mammoth trade this summer at the draft, the type Grant tried so hard to make. Kevin Love will be entering the final year of his contract, as will LaMarcus Aldridge. Grant tried for two years to unsuccessfully pry both stars out of their current cities, but each had too many years left on their contracts for their current teams to consider it. That's no longer true.
If either the Minnesota Timberwolves or Portland Trail Blazers come to the conclusion they can't re-sign their stars, this summer is the time to move them and the Cavs will be at the front of the line, stocked with young players and future draft picks.
This kind of duality is pretty common with the Cavs:
• "We're going to rebuild, but we want to skip steps as often as possible and get back to the playoffs immediately."
• "We're livid with LeBron for leaving but will go out of our way to court him to try and get him back."
• "We're going to separate ourselves from people who have a relationship with James, but we still think we have a chance at getting him."
One wonders if it might be better for the team to just move on to a true rebuild. But that doesn't seem to be the way owner Dan Gilbert thinks. Then again, I've seen crazier things in the NBA, and if James wanted to, he'd let the team know they have no shot.
The Cavs have Luol Deng's contract coming off the books, do have young players to offer in a trade for one of those stars, and have their draft picks. Aldridge looks like a long shot considering how well the Blazers have played this season, their future with Damian Lillard and a young core. Love is definitely a bigger question mark, but the Wolves just got done shutting down all offers for Love, and if they wanted one, they'd probably be able to get a better one than one the Cavs could offer (though it could be close). But maybe this could happen.
After the Cavs' past few years, it's hard to think anything is impossible.
Oh, and it should be noted on that emotional night where the Cavs welcomed James back courtside and honored Ilgauskas, the Cavs lost.