Cavaliers: Will LeBron James Stay in Cleveland If Dan Gilbert Sells Up?

Stephen A. Smith didn’t exactly help cool the flames around the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season on Wednesday night.

Appearing on ESPN First Take on Wednesday, the media personality suggested that Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers’ owner, is seeking to sell the team while LeBron James is still under contract in Cleveland.

“I’ll tell you the No. 1 reason why LeBron ain’t gonna capitulate to anything that Dan Gilbert wants to do,” Smith told First Take . “Because what Dan Gilbert wants to do, from what I’m being told, is sell the team. They’re more viable as a commodity if LeBron James is on your squad, as opposed to if LeBron James leaves. That’s one of the reasons why Dan Gilbert wanted him to commit to 3-to-5 years. Because within that time span, you sell the team, you get money out the wazoo, and LeBron is left.”

James can test free agency this summer. ESPN reported at the start of January that Gilbert tried to get James to pledge his future to Cleveland beyond the end of this season when he was negotiating trade partners for Kyrie Irving last summer.

James, who passed 30,000 career NBA points on Tuesday night in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, wouldn’t give Gilbert that assurance. The 33-year-old has been heavily linked with the Los Angeles Lakers, who expect to have cap space for two superstar players come the summer.

“Gilbert actually selling his stake in the Cavs would be a major shakeup, as Cleveland has been to three consecutive NBA Finals and won its first title ever just two seasons ago”, Darren Hartwell wrote for New England Sports Network on Wednesday. That said, the Cavaliers are shortly going to be in need of a rebuild with or without James. The next few years of ownership may be less rosy than the past few.

Perhaps the promise of a new owner with fresh ideas could convince James to stay in Cleveland, not just in the short-term but for the remainder of his career. The problem for the Cavaliers, mired in a losing run on the court, is that all these matters feel so nebulous and unsolvable right now. The only clear conclusion, at least from Smith’s report, is that James is the most powerful figure in the organization.