Kyrie Irving

Rumor: Kyrie Irving telling other stars he might push for trade if LeBron James leaves Cavaliers

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Flash back to January 2014: Kyrie Irving was reportedly telling people he wanted to leave the Cavaliers.

A few months later, LeBron James returned and Irving’s world changed. There has been some rockiness, but LeBron carried Irving to basketball’s biggest stages, where Irving has earned a reputation as a big-game player. Irving won a title, and Cleveland will contend again next year.

But what about 2018, when LeBron could leave the Cavs (maybe for Lakers or Clippers)?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

All-Star Kyrie Irving has been contacting some of his former Team USA teammates and letting them know that he might be willing to push for a trade, especially if he feels the Cavs’ run could end quickly with James able to opt out after next season.

Through back channels, Chicago would be one of the places that Irving would be interested to play.

It’s easy to see these conversations getting spun beyond the intent. It’s a short hop from a vague “Wouldn’t it be cool if we played together?” among friends to this report.

But Irving will be just 26 next year and under contract for another season. The Cavaliers likely want to make him centerpiece of their next era.

If Irving threatens to leave in 2019, when Kevin Love can also become a free agent, they might trade him. And Irving might do that.

It’s fair to wonder when and how far Cleveland falls. It could get ugly in a hurry.

But I wouldn’t assume Irving is already lining up hard contingencies if LeBron leaves – or that the Cleveland will accommodate Irving’s plan even if he makes one.

Reports: Dan Gilbert didn’t consult with LeBron before letting GM go, LeBron “disappointed”

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Let’s say you were the owner of a basketball team that happened to employ the best player on the planet, a hometown guy who brought your club its first title ever. This player is why the building sells out, why sponsors clamor — and pay big money — to be associated with your franchise, and why the value of said franchise has skyrocketed in two years.

Now let’s say you heard said player is not entirely happy and is considering leaving in a year to head West. Wouldn’t you — for your fans and your own financial self-interest — do everything you could to keep that player happy and wanting to stay with you? So, if you were going to make a major move that could impact the team, wouldn’t you at least consult with him?

Then you’re not Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Gilbert decided to let very successful Cleveland GM David Griffin go — he can say it was “mutual” or that there was just a difference of opinion, but we all know the code words — and did not consult LeBron James, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Then LeBron James himself came to Griffin’s defense.

LeBron reportedly was “disappointed” and “concerned” with this decision — and he should be. Cavaliers fans should be as well. Griffin did as well as could be expected in the GM role: He traded for Kevin Love, he made low-cost moves that were smart (bringing in J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver, for example), he got Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson to re-sign, and in the end his teams won 65 percent of their games and went to three straight finals, winning one.

LeBron had backed Griffin publicly on multiple occasions, not just in this tweet. Maybe he didn’t go far enough lobbying for Griffin to Gilbert, but he may not have seen it coming because who fires their GM — who was working the phones trying to pull off a trade all Monday — just 11 days before the start of a crucial free agency period?

Griffin also was well-respected around the league for his ability to handle Gilbert, an owner thought of as one of the toughest to work for.

This could be a way for Gilbert to save money (Griffin made less than half of the going rate for an elite GM). But not spending to keep a title team relevant is the kind of thing that might make LeBron more likely to leave. Which is why you talk to him.

Maybe Gilbert is star struck. Chauncey Billups is who Gilbert is chasing to step into the big chair.

Billups is a smart man, but he has never worked in an NBA front office before and he’s being thrown into a very difficult spot: upgrade an older, capped-out roster so it can compete with the more athletic Warriors, and keep LeBron happy. He may have former Buck Assistant GM passed over for their head job Justin Zanik by his side, but that’s still a new front office trying to find it’s feet at a crucial time.

Griffin will only be unemployed as long as he wants to be, he’s highly respected around the league. Maybe he takes a year off and does television, maybe a team grabs him as a consultant, we shall see. But he will have options.

And whoever lands him will be getting an elite GM.

David Griffin to leave Cavaliers as GM; Chauncey Billups reportedly could be replacement

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David Griffin helped put a team around LeBron James that brought Cleveland its first title in 54 years. He pulled off the Kevin Love trade. He got J.R. Smith in town. He kept Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson with the Cavaliers. This year he pulled off moves to land Kyle Korver and Deron Williams to add depth. He’s done everything you could ask of a GM of a contender — he was the GM for three years, they went to three Finals, won a ring, and the team won 65 percent of its games.

Griffin was also underpaid by industry standards. He reportedly made less than $2 million a year, while GMs of other contenders make at least $4 million, usually more like $5 million. He was due a healthy raise.

Instead, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert decided to not pay that bill (and screw Griffin over in the process, we’ll get to that).

Griffin will be his own free agent July 1. Brian Windhorst of ESPN broke the news, Adrian Wojnarowski added details. Then Gilbert himself released a statement saying the two sides “mutually decided not to extend” his contract. Riiight.

Marc Stein of ESPN had another interesting note.

Gilbert is notoriously difficult to deal with, and around the league, people were always impressed with how Griffin dealt with him.

All this in front of a crucial off-season for the Cavaliers as they try to change their roster so they can compete with the Warriors, doing so without much in terms of cap space or tradeable assets (stuff spent already in the Cavs’ win-now mode). All with the threat of LeBron James leaving the team in 2018 looming over it.

Also, LeBron was not down with this move, reportedly. One would think if one wanted to keep LeBron with the franchise he would consult with his star on these kinds of major moves.

We’ll see what Gilbert pays the next GM, but was this really a move about a few million bucks he could cut to save (since the team tax bill will be brutal next year)?

Gilbert did screw over Griffin in this process: Orlando and Atlanta (plus Milwaukee, to a lesser degree) wanted to talk to Griffin about their GM openings. Gilbert would not give teams permission for those teams to contact Griffin about what are two of the better GM spots available. Eventually, those teams couldn’t wait and made their hires. Griffin was stuck. That after Griffin turned down higher-priced offers last summer — as did some of the rest of the front office staff — to be part of what the Cavaliers had.

It was within Gilbert’s rights, but if he knew he wasn’t going to pay the going rate, then be cool to your employees, not a…. jerk. We’ll go with jerk. But Gilbert is who he is.

Lakers? Cavaliers? Pacers only care about best offer when trading Paul George

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The Indiana Pacers are getting out of the Paul George business. Well, more accurately, he told them he’s getting out of the Pacers business in the summer of 2018, so Indiana is now hunting around looking for trade partners to get something before he walks.

Most of the speculation has focused on Cleveland going after him to pair with LeBron James, or the Lakers making a move to get him because he wants to come there as a free agent in 2018 anyway.

Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard isn’t limiting himself — he’s going to talk to 29 other teams, and the one with the best offer wins. That simple. It’s all bottom line. Pritchard doesn’t care where George wants to go, stuck in a bad situation the Pacers are gong to get the best deal they can and do it quickly.

That best deal may not come from Cleveland or Los Angeles, there may be a team that thinks with a year in their culture they can win him over the long term and are willing to pay a little more for the opportunity — although probably not as much as the Pacers are asking.

Still, let’s take a closer look at the two teams most rumored.

The Lakers have little incentive to put together a deal that gives up something of value because George’s people have already let it be known he plans to go there as a free agent next summer. Why spend now?

The one reason for the Lakers to get involved — fear that George will sign somewhere like Cleveland, like it, and decide to stay. Even with that risk, the Lakers don’t want to give up much — they could try to dump one of the bad Luol Deng/Timofey Mozgov contracts, plus throw in someone they see fitting long term (such as Julius Randle), but the Lakers don’t have picks to throw around, they don’t have a tradable first rounder until 2020.

It makes sense for Cleveland to try and get in the sweepstakes — they need an upgrade, and better play on the wings, to compete with Golden State. The Cavs are as win now as it gets and should go all in here. They may, and they have no concern about just renting George, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

The Cavs are willing to enter into trade talks for George without any assurances he will commit to a long-term deal in Cleveland, a source familiar with the Cavs’ thinking told ESPN. Cleveland is confident its championship culture and overall atmosphere could sway George to want to stay after playing out the 2017-18 season on the final year of his deal.

The bigger question for the Cavaliers: What can they give up that Indiana wants? They don’t have young players on the bench the rebuilding Pacers want, and it’s years befoe Cleveland has picks they can send out. They also are not trading away Kyrie Irving.

The name that comes up? Kevin Love. First off, this is not fair to Love who has worked hard and improved his game each year he has been in Cleveland — and he played hard and as well as could be expected in the Finals. The problem is, the Warriors are a beast, one that Love does not match up well against. The questions are, would the Cavs deal Love, and would Indy think Love and filler works for them? Trade George and the Pacers are in rebuilding mode, they would need to flip Love to get the kind of young player and picks needed to get on that path.

If another team comes with a better offer, the Pacers will take it. They are trying to make the best of a terrible situation, they don’t care where the offer comes from. They may even be a little patient, but the market for a rent-a-player is never all that high.

 

Sixers deal for point guard they need with Markelle Fultz

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Jerryd Bayless was supposed to be the guy, the veteran stabilizing presence, but he broke his wrist. He played in three games.

T.J. McConnell was a surprise and a find, but he’s a backup at the point long term, not the answer.

Sergio Rodriguez threw great passes, but he was always a stopgap.

Philadelphia headed into this offseason unsettled long-term at the point. There has been talk of chasing Kyle Lowry or some other free agent veteran point guard to settle the young team down, but those again were not the long-term answer.

Markelle Fultz is that answer.

By trading for the No. 1 pick in this draft, sending the Boston Celtics the No. 3 this year than either the Lakers No. 1 next year (if it falls in picks 2-5) or the Kings pick in 2019, the Sixers get a potentially great young point guard, a versatile one who fits what they are trying to build.

Fultz, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons — that could be the Sixers big three.

Fultz should bring the ability to organize the offense consistently that Philly lacked last season (with Bayless out injured). They needed someone to set the table, and Fultz can do that.

But Fultz can do so much more.

Fultz is a versatile point guard for the modern game. He can shoot (41.3 percent from three last season), can score from the midrange or attack the rim, he’s a strong playmaker in transition or the halfcourt, and he’s a good floor general. There’s very little he can’t do on offense, and defensively he has potential.

Brett Brown can use Fultz off the ball if Simmons is running the point, or he can trust Fultz to run the show. They could form the kind of dangerous pick-nd-roll play with two ball handlers who can shoot we have seen from Cleveland with the Kyrie Irving/LeBron James 1/3 pick-and-roll. Plus both Fultz and Simmons are good passers who can feed Embiid.

Philly’s potential new big three also are all on basically the same career arc.

We don’t know how this move will ultimately play out, or if these three can mesh with the Sixers. Can they stay healthy enough to find out?

However, right now, this is a strong move by Philly — there comes a time to cash in some of those treasure trove of picks and get the guys you want. Bryan Colangelo did that here. I’ve had my concerns about how the new Sixers GM would mess up “the process” but this is not that. This is getting a potentially great young player that fits what the Sixers are building. This is a strong move.