Dan Gilbert on Winning the Lottery: “It’s going to be a seminal event that’s going to change the franchise for years to come”

May 18, 2011 – 11:30 am by Chris Fedor

This past summer the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans were dealt an enormous blow that looked like it was going to cripple the franchise for a number of years. Not only did the Cavs lose one of the most talented players in the league, but they lost a hometown kid and a person who was so pivotal in turning around a downtrodden franchise. After LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, things looked bleak in Cleveland. The Cavs suffered through a 19-63 season and there wasn’t too much hope for them. Well, at least until last night. The basketball gods smiled upon Cleveland last night in New Jersey. It was exactly what Cavs fans needed and it was exactly what the franchise needed to be relevant again in the NBA.

The Cavs played the lottery and they hit the jackpot.

While LeBron James is gone and won’t return in the form of Kyrie Irving, who is the best player in this year’s draft, the former Duke point guard is exactly the kind of player and person that the Cavs need to build their franchise around. Kyrie Irving doesn’t guarantee a championship, he doesn’t guarantee a trip to the NBA Finals, and he doesn’t fill the void left behind by LeBron James, but he gives hope to a franchise that was looking for a way to move on from LeBron James.

The Cavs now have a new number one pick to build their franchise around along with the fourth pick in the draft as well. While the rebuilding process had already begun, it was accelerated last night thanks to the Cavs’ lucky charm. The 14-year-old son of Dan Gilbert delivered the biggest win of the year for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dan Gilbert joined ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland with Tony Rizzo to talk about how it feels to win the lottery, If he had a good feeling going into the lottery, how big this is for the Cavs, whether or not the front office has a good idea of who they will take at number one, and what he was thinking about as the picks were being announced.

How it feels to win the lottery:

“It feels great. I’m on my way back to the airport to go back to Cleveland. It’s exciting to go back to town because after last night – the fans for the last year have gone through such hell and they have been through so much – and to see it all come out the right way and see my son up there, it was a special night.”

If he had a good feeling going into it:

“My gut said we had a good chance on the Cavs pick to come out one especially since it hadn’t come out one in 13 years in the two slot. If you look at the two slot with a 20 percent chance you’re supposed to come out one every five years theoretically so I said we’re due. I had no idea it was the Clippers pick. Somebody, when I got up there on the stage right after it happened, somebody said it was the Clippers pick and I thought they were just messing with me or bs’ing me then 20 minutes later someone said no really it was the Clippers pick. I mean that’s just crazy stuff, but we will take it right?”

How big getting the first pick is for the Cavs:

“Absolutely huge because I think contrary to most public opinion here this draft particularly the high end, according to our guys, and our guys go deep, they do all kinds of intelligence on the player not just from a skill standpoint, but their life – they talk to their kindergarten teachers, their aunts and uncles, their friends and enemies, and everyone in between, and they just really love the character of some of these top guys. Who they are and what they represent and what they are as people and human beings. As we all know, because we have seen both ends of it in this town for many years, the good and the bad, I think character and integrity wins out in the end holding all the other stuff equal. To get a couple of picks like this in the top four, including number one, it’s going to be a seminal event that’s going to change the franchise for years to come. Combining that with the trade exception that we’ve got still, potential trade opportunities, free agency, and some guys coming back, this thing can turn around quicker than people think.”

Whether or not the front office has a good idea of who they are going to take at number one:

“I think they have a pretty good idea of who they like and who they favor in the draft overall. Now that the owners know they are going to huddle deep. I don’t think there’s a 100 percent consensus, but I think there’s a pretty good feeling of who they like at one. I wish I could comment on that but they would kill me before I walked in the office.”

What he was thinking as the picks were being announced:

“Losing your mind there. I was hanging out with my other son, 13-years-old next to me and the guys that you mentioned that we brought with it’s just surreal. They hit the four and then they went to break and come back and you’ve got the two guys and my son up there. When they announced three wasn’t the Cavs I thought we were going to get it. I just had a feeling 50/50. After the three wasn’t us I said ‘hey we’re going to get this thing’ and then we did.”

Whether or not he feels going through “The Decision” bonded the city of Cleveland:

“Absolutely. I felt that from the night of last July, that funky night that happened there. The letters, the e-mails, the support, one day I’m going to have to publish a book with just the emails and handwritten letters of the people from Cleveland and even people not from Cleveland, just the incredible emotion that was beyond the event that occurred. It was about Cleveland, who Cleveland is, what they’ve been through, and the families, it was a huge moment. I think in the long run here we’re going to be better off for it.”

Listen to Dan Gilbert on ESPN 850 WKNR here

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