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LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert are at odds over the team’s spending on payroll, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
James, who on Monday publicly blasted the Cavs’ roster for not being deep enough, reportedly believes that the team has slowed “new spending” after winning a championship last year.
According to Windhorst, James’ public criticisms “angered” Gilbert, who spent an NBA record $161 million in payroll and luxury tax last season and has spent the most of any NBA team over the past three seasons.
The dispute over the Cavs’ payroll is reportedly “straining” James and Gilbert’s relationship.
According to Windhorst, when James returned to the Cavaliers in 2014, he spoke to Gilbert about his willingness to spend unconditionally to build a championship contender. Gilbert agreed, and James joined the team.
Following a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, James called the Cavs “top-heavy as s—,” saying they need a “f—ing playmaker” while also saying they would be in trouble if he or Kyrie Irving got injured. He said the team is not better than last year from a “personnel” standpoint. In a series of tweets later on, James said he was not angry at anyone on the roster or GM David Griffin, but questioned if the team was getting complacent.
According to ESPN, Griffin and James met privately to discuss the criticism. Griffin also addressed media on Wednesday, calling James’ criticisms “misguided.” Griffin said that the Cavs are happy with their current roster, will not change their trajectory, and said the team needs to improve “from within.” He said the team has an air of complacency on the court.
As Windhorst notes, James seems displeased with how the end of the bench was filled out. After letting players like Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov walk in free agency (after receiving $38 million and $64 million contracts from the Bucks and Lakers, respectively), the Cavs have turned to younger, developing players like DeAndre Liggins, Jordan McRae, and Kay Felder. After the loss to the Pelicans, James pointed out veterans like Raymond Felton and Michael Beasley who joined teams at low costs.
“No disrespect to DeAndre and to Kay, you think we can rely on them to help us win a playoff game right now?” James said. “And it’s no disrespect to them. But it’s like, it’s not fair to them.”
Griffin said on Wednesday, “We can absolutely increase payroll if it’s the right piece at the right time. I’ve never once been given a mandate of any kind relative to money.
On Wednesday, ESPN reported that the Cavs shot down the Knicks’ offer to trade Carmelo Anthony for Kevin Love. The Cavs are reportedly uninterested in moving Love, particularly after he helped them win a championship last season.
When the Cavs traded for Kyle Korver in January, they not only decreased payroll, they opened up a roster spot. James noted after the move that the team still needs a backup point guard.
However, with a lack of viable trade chips, it doesn’t seem the Cavs have any big trades in mind. If the Cavs don’t make any trades before the February 23 deadline, they could look to sign a free agent with their open roster spot.
Over the last two years, when the Cavs have hit a rough patch, James hasn’t been afraid to speak out on issues that are bothering him. This year seems no different, but thus far, it appears he’s rubbing his GM and owner the wrong way with his critiques.