July 14th, 2004
To: Cavaliers FansFrom: Gordon Gund
I know last week’s developments with respect to Carlos Boozer are a source of extreme disappointment for you. I want to assure you that I feel exactly the same way. Like you, I believed in Carlos.
Several days have now gone by. This has helped me to gain perspective. I hope this letter will do the same for you.
First, Jim Paxson has taken a tremendous amount of criticism in the media for what happened. As the team owner, I made the decision not to pick up the option on Carlos’ contract. Any criticism should be directed to me, not to Jim Paxson. I want to be very clear that any fault is mine.
Up until late last week when the trust was broken, I believed in Carlos Boozer, the player, and Carlos Boozer, the person. That is why I tried to do what he said he wanted. We tried to do right by him, by the team and by you in trusting in his repeated insistence that if we showed him respect, he would show respect to us.
Carlos and his agent first approached us in December of 2003, stating his desire for financial security as well as his desire to remain in Cleveland and be a key part of the future of this franchise. He and his agent made it very clear that if we respected them, and provided the security he was looking to gain, he would respect us. Given his record on the court, with the franchise, and in the community, we had every reason to believe his commitment.
Over the course of several months, we had multiple meetings that involved Carlos, his wife and his agent. In our most recent meeting on June 30, Jim Paxson and I told Carlos we had two options. He could play this year on his existing contract and test the market for free agency next year, or we could elect not to exercise the option if we had the understanding with him that as soon as legally possible he would negotiate a contract with us for the maximum we could pay him under league rules.
I told him that as we could not have an agreement at that time given the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement, we would have to trust one another’s intentions. I said I define trust as his intention to stay in Cleveland and enter into a long term contract with us as soon as possible under the league rules. In that meeting, we were clear with him that he could make more money in the open market a year from now than we could pay him by redoing his contract this year. I told him he needed to understand that and we did not want him to later think we had taken advantage of him. Jim told him, “There are at least seven teams that have cap space right now who will want to pay you more than we can now. We don’t want to lose you. Why would we not pick up the option?” Carlos said “Because we'd like long term security and we want to stay in Cleveland.” Carlos went on to say that he was happy to be a Cavalier and never indicated any concern with his role on the team or his relationship with Coach Silas.
Carlos, his wife and his agent – all of whom were in that room -- knew what our maximum ability would be to pay him. Both Carlos and his wife responded that they wanted financial security now and therefore were anxious to pursue the second option of entering into a long term contract with us as soon as possible and that they would live with any consequences from this decision.
Carlos’ agent then said he wanted to go to another room to talk with his client and his wife alone which they did. When they returned, his agent said he had again explained everything to them so that they understood everything involved and said that their thinking had not changed.
Jim Paxson then told him, “We'd like to begin, as soon as permissible, to negotiate an agreement that we can sign on July 14th.” Carlos responded, “That’s exactly what I want. I want to get this done as quickly as we can.”
Over time Carlos had told Jim and me repeatedly, “If you show respect for me, I will show respect for you.” So, in the June 30 meeting, I reminded him of that and said, “We are all counting on what you said in earlier meetings and again today.” He responded, “That’s right and you can trust me on that.” I asked if we could all trust each other? Carlos, his wife and agent each responded “Yes.” At that point, believing so strongly in Carlos, I said we would not pick up his option. Our intent, as soon as we could do so, was to re-do his contract. The quotes you saw in the media July 1 about his desire to remain here were entirely consistent with what he told us.
In the final analysis, I decided to trust Carlos and show him the respect he asked for. He did not show that trust and respect in return. That’s what happened. I wanted you to hear it directly from me. The decision was mine and I take full responsibility.
We currently have no intention of matching Utah's offer to Carlos. In order to match it, and within the restrictions of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement, we would need to make player personnel moves of such a magnitude that it would have significant negative impact on our team moving forward. We are continuing to look at every possible option that will allow us to improve our team and continue to build on the tremendous momentum we have experienced in recent years. More than ever, we are committed to bringing a championship to this city. Thank you for your continued support of the Cleveland Cavaliers.