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Gund not happy with Cavs

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund is as disgusted as anyone by the current state of his team. And he isn’t counting on LeBron James to make it better.

One day after the Cavs fired coach John Lucas, Gund said the coaching change was necessary to turn around a team that has the NBA’s worst record at 8-34.

“I don’t like this,” Gund said. “I don’t like losing, not like this.” During a 30-minute conference call, Gund addressed several issues including James, his young team and its inability to sell tickets or excite fans.

The Cavaliers are averaging a league-low 11,222 fans per game at Gund Arena and their season-ticket base has dropped. “I’m very distressed about having an apathetic fan base and sagging attendance,” Gund said. “That troubles me a great deal. But I can’t do anything about that except do what I did yesterday. I think it will help bring us together as a team.”

The Cavs on Monday fired Lucas with 1 1/2 years remaining on his three-year, $9 million contract. General manager Jim Paxson said he was disappointed in the team’s lack of direction under Lucas, who went 37-87 in his brief stint with the team. Lucas was replaced by assistant Keith Smart, who made his debut Tuesday night against the Orlando Magic.

Gund, who last month was praising Lucas, said the team had no choice but to make the coaching switch. The Cavs are coming off a 1-5 road trip in which they lost by an average of 20.4 points per game.

“We were going in the wrong direction,” Gund said. “This is an important season for us. I’m not laying this all at John’s feet, but we had to make a change. “

The Cavs’ sorry record has led to speculation that the team is trying to lose so it can be in position to draft James, the Akron high school star who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft.

“I hope the coaching change shows that’s not what we are doing,” Gund said. “We would not do that. You don’t run your team like that and you don’t ruin your season for that. No one in their right mind would do that.”

If the Cavs finish with the league’s worst record, they would have a 25 percent chance in the draft lottery of getting the top overall pick.

Gund insists he is not banking on James to save his franchise.

“We may not get LeBron James,” he said. “We’re not planning on that we’re going to get him. That’s not our strategy. If we get him, that’s great. But if we don’t, we’re still going to get a great pick.”

The Cavs have the league’s youngest team, and Gund feels that he has a core group — Ricky Davis, rookies Dajuan Wagner and Carlos Boozer, and veterans Jumaine Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Darius Miles — that can get Cleveland back to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

“I feel good about where we are,” he said. “I think we are on the right track.”

Cleveland fans might argue that point after the latest coaching change. Smart is the Cavs’ fourth coach since 1999, and the club has altered its rebuilding plan several times in the past four years. Still, Gund remains positive things will work out.

“We’ve got a lot of the pieces,” he said. “We have got to get them to play together as a team and that hasn’t happened.”

Gund has denied past reports that he was selling the team, but said that if there was a change in ownership, the Cavs would not move out of Cleveland.

“This franchise is not going to leave,” he said.

Gund also insisted he’s committed to getting the Cavs back to respectability.

“I intend on building and getting competitive,” he said. “I want to see that through.”

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