Mike Brown, Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving not consulted on Mike Brown’s firing, says Cavaliers general manager David Griffin


Kyrie Irving is the Cavaliers’ only All-Star since LeBron James, the unquestioned franchise player.

Irving can also become an unrestricted free agent as soon as 2016 (though it’s much more likely delayed until 2020) and has reportedly expressed a desire to leave Cleveland.

Even though Irving denies those reports, if I were running the Cavaliers, I’d make an effort to keep Irving happy. A big way to do that is giving him input into the coach he works with daily.

But Cleveland general manger David Griffin, speaking in a pointed tone, denied Irving played a part in Mike Brown’s firing.

“Any – any – insinuation that Kyrie Irving had anything to do with this decision is patently false,” Griffin said. “It’s unfair. He was not counseled on this decision, nor was he counseled on the previous coaching decision.”

If he wanted to save Brown’s job, Irving probably could have. Even if management didn’t want to hear from him, Irving already has the cache to endorse a coach and dare the team to go against his wishes – if he wanted Brown to stay.

Irving wants to play for a successful team, and Brown offered little evidence he could take Cleveland to the playoffs anytime soon. I certainly wouldn’t blame Irving for wanting a change.

And what would be so wrong with consulting your star player on his coach, anyway? Irving is more important to the franchise than the coach. Be up front with Irving and say you’re not necessarily going to follow his wishes, but seek his input.

Asked how Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert will affect the hiring of the next coach, Griffin said, “This will be a collaborative effort effort. I will not make any decision alone, but I will absolutely be leading this process.”

If Gilbert wants to give input, he should. It’s his team, after all. And Griffin’s response shows he’s not afraid to cede some of his power in the name of teamwork.

But Irving is important to this franchise, too. Considering Chris Grant’s midseason firing, maybe even more important than Griffin.

The idea that star players must remain subservient to the coaches and general managers is long outdated. Irving should be viewed as more of a collaborator with the next coach rather than an underling. So, Irving should have a voice – though not decision-making power – in picking his partner for building a winning team.

Griffin can have his principles about players staying their place. I’d rather have Irving on a third contract.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.