Billy Hunter says Dan Gilbert told him to “trust my gut” as negotiations stall

George Cohen didn’t have the impact we had all hoped for during this last round of NBA Labor negotiations I guess.  In the end, it was ugly, unproductive, unfinished, and noticeably contentious.  David Stern wasn’t around for the aftermath last night, his name not attached to any quotes, his face not in front of any cameras, and his voice not carrying the message sent by those who stood answering questions in his place.  He had the flu he said.  

Instead it was Adam Silver, Peter Holt, Derek Fisher, and Billy Hunter who carried the message that everything is basically just one big, sloppy mess, with no real end in sight at this point. As of this morning, NBA teams have even been allowed to schedule Arena Events on the same nights as previously scheduled DECEMBER games – but still only two weeks of the season have been technically canceled thus far.

Offered as a part of the reason for why these negotiations have stalled, fairly or unfairly, is Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.  At the 0:53 second mark in the video below, Hunter is talking about how he and his players wanted to work on issues related to the overall system first, and then revisit the major debate over the 50-50 BRI split.  It was Gilbert at that point, he says, who told Hunter to trust him on the system, agree to the 50-50, and then work back through the system from there.  Something Hunter and the players weren’t willing to do.

As an example of what the NBA community is saying about Gilbert as a result, is the following from Tom Ziller at SB Nation.  Ziller is a great writer, but he doesn’t have all that many nice things to say about Dan Gilbert in the article he wrote this morning.

Tom Ziller, SB Nation:

“The arsonist that deserves the most scorn, though, has to be Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and noted font stylist. Fisher told the press that when the owners presented their de-facto ultimatum — they wouldn’t talk system issues unless the player agreed to move down to a 50-50 split — it was Gilbert who told the Lakers point guard to “trust [Gilbert’s] gut” that the system changes would be fair. Dan Gilbert wanted the players to concede on the single biggest issue in the lockout negotiations … and trust him that the rest would fall into place. Dan Gilbert.  Dan Gilbert. 

Forget about the LeBron James tirade and childishness. Forget about “bloggissists.” Forget about his flip-flopping about the psychic value of team ownership.

Dan Gilbert’s company, Quicken Loans, was one of the worst offenders in the housing bubble, offering scores of subprime loans to unqualified buyers, pumping up the real estate market until it burst, contributing to a collapse of the global financial markets and at least one bonafide U.S. recession. Gilbert wasn’t alone — plenty of banks got too loose in the name of profit and stupidity but mostly profit. But Quicken Loans was a big player in this game.As such, Dan Gilbert doesn’t get to tell anyone to “trust his gut” in a business deal.

Dan Gilbert can’t drop an ultimatum on someone, tell them to trust him and get away with it. Of all the delusion, the brand torching, the picking over carcasses that the NBA’s vultures have done over the past four month, nothing tops this. Nothing tops Dan Gilbert asking players to trust him. How could you blame anyone from laughing in his face?

In the end, it is David Stern and Adam Silver who need to get Allen, Holt and Gilbert — and the 26 other owners — back in line, back on a path to solutions, not union-busting. That is, of course, unless Billy Hunter is right, and this was the end-game all along.”

Now obviously Dan Gilbert reportedly made the “trust my gut” statement to Billy Hunter, as opposed to Lakers Guard Derek Fisher, but that’s a minor detail.

Dan Gilbert did put himself in this position to receive this type of criticism last summer though, there’s no questioning that.  First with the email that he sent, and then with the way in which he followed things up on Twitter for some time after. I didn’t really have any problems with what he did personally, but I do understand and get where others outside of Cleveland would. I also understand that he is a lightning rod for this sort of thing as a result of last summer too. Which he is now, deservedly or not, and always will be moving forward.

The argument that he worked for Quicken Loans during the mortgage crisis so he is an innately evil and bad person I don’t get though, nor do I think has much merit.  While I’m not saying that Ziller said that specifically, I do believe that feeling is what drives a lot of the Dan Gilbert hate in general, and it’s short-sighted in my opinion. I’ve worked in the Real Estate / New Home industry for the last eight years, and could get more into that point if I really felt like it. I don’t though, and I won’t because this is a basketball blog, but I’ve always had an issue with that argument personally. 

What Gilbert does represent is the small market owner who is most definitely in a real clash with the big market owners though.  For sure, no question, and that dynamic is slowing these negotiations down in my opinion too.  Ziller is right about David Stern and Adam Silver needing to get these guys all back in line and on a path towards a solution for sure, because they are certainly not anywhere near that path collectively.

To me, this is and has always been the real divide in these negotiations too.  Not the owners vs. the players, but the owners vs. the owners.  The issue David Stern hasn’t been able to overcome is the Lakers and the Knicks vs the Bucks the Cavs – so to speak.  Until those issues are resolved, and the owners are all on the same page, there will never be the opportunity to reach an agreement with the players.  

Which all sucks because I hate thinking about this stuff, let alone writing about it. Trust me on that.  

Have a good weekend, go Canton Charge. 

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Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.