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A Look Inside Dan Gilbert's Frustration With LeBron James

People are still questioning Dan Gilbert for his reaction.  Perhaps you need a look inside the day-to-day operations in Cleveland to get a real feel.  Brian Windhorst, who for the better part of a decade has been as close to James and the Cavaliers as anyone, gives us a glimpse inside.

 Gilbert may regret that part of the letter but his personality probably won't allow him to ever take it back. It is part of the aggressive optimism that he wears on his sleeve and demands in his various companies.

James' method of breaking up with the Cavs was much more high profile and calculated, if more emotionless, than expected. Cavs fans immediately picked up on the fact James did not offer a "thank you" but instead hoped for understanding when he returns to his hometown, which may not be until he comes back as a member of the Heat.

But even if Gilbert's missive may have been misconceived -- some would call it a public relations mistake even if it played to the flowing anger of the Cavs fans -- he felt the anger had foundation. It isn't just because James decided to leave but because he seemingly couldn't give a legitimate reason as to why he was dropping the Cavs.

There is a great opportunity to win championships in Miami. But those, as James found out the past two seasons when he played on the No. 1-seeded playoff team, aren't guaranteed.

Meanwhile Gilbert was left to go back and look at the past three years, the term of James' most recent contract, and attempt to figure what he could have done differently to get James to stay. The short answer is winning a title but James' own shortcomings contributed to that failure, especially his performance against the Celtics in the playoffs this past season.

In every trade Gilbert made, he took on more money than he sent out, his payroll spiraling into the luxury tax and then more deeply into the tax. Each, whether it was for Ben Wallace or Mo Williams or Shaquille O'Neal or Antawn Jamison, came only as James signed off. Yet when it was time to sign free agents, James would not commit to the future.

It left the team being forced to improve mostly through trades, deals they often made with the short term in mind that required them to give up future assets in the form of draft picks and prospects. Largely it worked, as the Cavs became one of the league's most successful teams.

Gilbert hired one of James' friends and paid him more than some assistant coaches to hang out with the team so James would be comfortable. Gilbert allowed members of James' management team to fly on the team jet. He spent $25 million to construct a practice facility that was located 20 minutes closer to James' home than the old one. He rebuilt the locker room. He hired a masseur to travel on the road because James likes massages. 

Gilbert thought his relationship with James was deeper than 'player/owner'.  He had invited James on leadership conference last year because he knew of LeBron's desire to be a business mogul.  Many of LeBron's upper-echelon business contacts came from Gilbert and that conference.  Gilbert considered LeBron a partner in the Cavaliers, not an employee.

In the end, LeBron broke that partnership, without so much as a reason why.