CLEVELAND: Four years after the nasty breakup, after the insults and hurt feelings on both sides, Dan Gilbert and LeBron James were reunited inside Quicken Loans Arena preparing for Thursday’s memorable season opener.

The bitterness has subsided and the name-calling has stopped. It was replaced Wednesday by laughter and playful jabs between owner and superstar.

“Looks like you grew an inch,” James told Gilbert.

“I could use it,” Gilbert responded.

The most unlikely reunion in league history is complete, and yet through it all, Gilbert said Wednesday he never believed the relationship between the two was irreparable.

“Unless you’re really doing some significant harm to another human being, I don’t think the bridge is ever burned,” Gilbert told reporters on the eve of the Cavs’ opener against the New York Knicks. “I certainly don’t keep grudges. He’s not that kind of person.”

Gilbert’s remarks were his first publicly in eight months. Since he last addressed the media, the Cavs fired and hired a coach, removed the interim tag from General Manager David Griffin’s title, drafted Andrew Wiggins, signed Kyrie Irving to a max contract extension, welcomed James back to Cleveland and traded for Kevin Love. It was an active summer and Gilbert stayed quiet for most of it.

Now the Cavs have emerged from a bleak four-year rebuild as one of the most powerful teams in the Eastern Conference thanks to James’ decision to return home.

“We had a night where emotions were flying high on all sides,” Gilbert said of the night James departed. “Things like that happen a lot in business where people have phone calls and heated exchanges and people are writing each other emails and letters, and then the next day they’re eating lunch and doing business. It’s not a be-all or end-all type thing.

“Except when you’re in the sports world, something like that is blown up and the whole world knows it.”

Gilbert said he and James have a good relationship today, as illustrated by the playful banter before Wednesday’s practice. Where Gilbert once essentially called James a coward and James countered by questioning Gilbert’s character, the two have reunited in an effort to bring Cleveland its first championship in 50 years.

“We had one bad moment and it just overshadowed all the great times we had together,” James said. “Now we’re back together. We both have something in common and that’s to bring a championship to this city. That’s what it comes down to. We have an opportunity and we have an obligation to represent this team and franchise the right way.”

The Cavs own the NBA’s worst record over the last four years and Gilbert referenced the butterfly effect of how things could’ve turned out differently with even the slightest alteration.

The Cavs won the lottery coin flip in 2012 that ultimately cost them the chance to draft Anthony Davis. They would’ve won the draft lottery (and taken Davis) if only they had lost the coin flip. Instead they fell to fourth in the draft and selected Dion Waiters.

But all of the successes and failures over the last four years, regardless of how minor they appeared in a vacuum, delivered them to this point of James’ return and assembling one of the league’s most powerful lineups.

“Look, you either can take risks, make mistakes and learn from them, or make no decision,” Gilbert said. “I’ve always chosen to sometimes take risks. If you’re right, that’s great. If you’re wrong, at least you have significant learning from it.

“The last four years in my view are sort of a payment for where we’re at today. You couldn’t have been where we’re at today without going through that kind of pain.”

The pain is finally gone, washed away with one of the most dramatic roster overhauls in recent memory. But just because Vegas has declared the Cavs the favorites to win a title doesn’t mean Gilbert is going to fall into that prediction trap again.

“I learned my lessons on guarantees and predictions — I don’t do much of that anymore these days,” Gilbert joked. “I do believe we put together a team and a coaching staff and a front office that’s worked very hard certainly to put us in a position to compete at a high level. That’s why you play the games.”

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.