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

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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The idea that star players must remain subservient to the coaches and general managers is long outdated.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.

Report: Rockets lure assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement with ‘significant raise’

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After a slow start, the Rockets got assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement.

How?

The usual way employers attract someone to a job.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta was alarmed enough to personally recruit defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who retired just before training camp, to return, offering what sources say was a significant raise that pushed his salary to a range that ranks among the NBA’s highest-paid assistant coaches.

Good for Bzdelik using his leverage. He looked like a defensive whiz last season, and Houston slipped without him. Of course, personnel matters, too. There’s no guarantee these Rockets – minus Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – reach last year’s defensive level.

Bzdelik has been back around the team, but isn’t working full-time yet. It’ll take a while to assess his impact on Houston.

And good for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta paying up. Fertitta is still trying to determine the right amount for him to spend, but the team is better off if he’s willing to pay what’s necessary to attract the most desirable coaches.

Charles Barkley addresses Draymond Green-Kevin Durant dynamic (video)

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Want to hear an entertaining guy address an entertaining topic? Here you go.

Trae Young: I’ll be better than Luka Doncic

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Trae Young and Luka Doncic will be forever linked by their draft-night trade.

The Hawks took Doncic No. 3 then traded down with the Mavericks for No. 5 pick Young and a future first-round pick.

Young, via Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated:

“The thing with Luka,” Young says, “he’s a great player. I don’t understand why it can’t work out for both situations. I hear [Atlanta made a mistake] all the time. Luka’s a great dude, and I think he’s going to be a really good player. But at the same time, I’m going to be a better player. Just because of my ability to stretch the floor, get others involved, I think I’ll be better.”

Of course, Young was never going to say Doncic would be better than him. But Young didn’t have to address this so directly at all. By going out of his way to make such a bold statement, Young puts more pressure on himself.

So far, both Doncic and Young have impressed. I’ll still stick with Doncic, though. Enough to justify Dallas surrendering that extra first-round pick? That’s a far tougher call and the one the Hawks will be judged by.

Young doesn’t want that leniency, though. He’s aiming to be better than Doncic straight up and unafraid to say so publicly.

Markelle Fultz’s new free throw stroke is… different.

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Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz is in his own head with his free throw stroke now. (And, likely much more than that, but we’ll stick with the free throws for now.)

Earlier this week Fultz double-clutched a free throw attempt and his stroke was a mess.

Each game that stroke seems to change and the latest one is… different. Very different.

As Vecenie notes, this is actually an improvement in terms of the release, but that doesn’t make it good. Fultz was 1-of-2 in his one trip to the stripe (as of this writing).

Still, I have never seen someone pass the ball back-and-forth between their hands as they go into their shooting motion like that. Very, very odd.