Getty Images

Report: Cavaliers explored trading Kyrie Irving last June, before his request

1 Comment

Last summer’s trade request from Kyrie Irving came out of the blue for a lot of fans, and confused people — why would he want to leave a team that had been to three consecutive Finals and has the best player on the planet in LeBron James? Was his ego so big he had to do it his way?

That’s not how Irving saw it, he saw a team he thought no longer wanted him.

The Cavaliers explored trading Irving before he ever made his request, reports ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, who had a lengthy interview with Irving about the trade that sent him to Boston (and detailing Irving’s rise, it’s worth a read).

What they didn’t know was Cleveland had explored trading Irving in June, long before he asked out, a fact conveniently omitted when word of his demand leaked. Irving made the decision to remain silent while the details of his request were, in his word, “distorted.”

“I didn’t feel the need to say anything because I knew the truth, and so did they,” he says. “So it didn’t matter what others said.”

“They didn’t want me there,” he says….

In mid-June, shortly before Griffin left, team and league sources confirm, the Cavs explored a three-way deal with Phoenix and Indiana that would have shipped Irving and Frye to the Suns and brought Eric Bledsoe and Paul George to Cleveland. The Suns resisted, unwilling to part with their No. 4 pick, which they planned to use to draft Josh Jackson.

MacMullan asked LeBron James about Irving not being wanted, and he responded: “That makes absolutely no sense.”

The Suns were one of the teams in the Irving trade talks after his request, but it certainly is possible this was explored before.

What matters here is perception — Irving didn’t feel wanted. For whatever reason (the fact LeBron and Bledsoe are both represented by Rich Paul, a good friend of LeBron’s, played into that). So he tried to be proactive (especially with the specter of LeBron’s free agency in 2018 looming). Irving certainly feels wanted and loved in Boston.

Another critical part of the perception of what is going on: “explored” is a vague term. Teams “explore” trades on a very surface level for everyone on their roster (or close to it), because they want to gauge the value of that player to other teams, sort of a check on their own perception of the player’s value. This may well have been more than that, we don’t know how far down the “explored” road this three-way trade really went. Maybe a long way, maybe not that far. But it’s not how Irving perceived it.

Finally, the Cavaliers had just lost to the Warriors in the Finals, and Golden State looked (and looks) like a juggernaut. Cleveland’s goal is to win a ring, and that means making the roster better — more shooting, more wing defenders, more versatility. Would a combination of Bledsoe and George for Irving make the Cavaliers better? On paper yes, certainly defensively it would improve their matchups with the Warriors — and that was the only goal. There are few tradable assets on the Cavaliers at this point (Irving and Kevin Love were the only players who would return meaningful value) so then GM David Griffin explored it. Is that part of the reason (or the main reason) Dan Gilbert didn’t renew Griffin’s contract? Who knows. Gilbert is notoriously hard to work for and has not renewed the contract of any GM he’s had.

What matters is Irving wanted out by this point, and it got dropped in the lap of new GM Koby Altman on his first day on the job. He did about as well with an Irving trade as could have been expected.

Irving is his own guy, not always easy to read. His motivations can seem a mystery to outsiders at times. But like all superstars (and players in general) he wants to be wanted, and that feeling was gone in Cleveland. Which started a chain of moves that shook up the Eastern Conference.

Watch Kawhi Leonard dunk all over Giannis Antetokounmpo, highlight of 26-3 Toronto run

Getty Images
4 Comments

For most of the first three quarters of Game 6, the Milwaukee Bucks were in control of the game and looked to be on the way to forcing a Game 7.

But Kawhi Leonard sparked a 10-0 run for Toronto to end the third, scoring eight and assisting on a Serge Ibaka bucket.

That run carried over into the fourth and became a 26-3 run that was highlighted by this insane dunk by Leonard over Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Insane.

I’d say that’s Leonard’s best shot as a Raptor if not for the series winner against Philadelphia.

The Bucks responded with a 7-0 run and this game is going to go down to the wire.

Bucks play with desperation, lead by as many as 15 in first half

Associated Press
Leave a comment

If you think a 15-point lead is safe, go talk to a Portland Trail Blazers fan and get back to me.

The Bucks will still take it. Milwaukee has come out with a sense of desperation, but more importantly got to play with some pace and couldn’t miss early from three — they started 4-of-6 and were 7-of-13 from three as of this writing — and what we saw were play after play from the Bucks, the kinds of things we haven’t seen the last three games. They led by 13 after one, and the lead got as high as 15.

Can the Bucks sustain this, or will they cool down as the Raptors heat up? It’s going to be a wild rest of the game in Toronto.

The Raptors are up 3-2 in the series and playing for their first ever franchise trip to the Finals. The Bucks are playing to force a Game 7 Monday back in Milwaukee.

 

Dwyane Wade got an All-NBA vote, Gabrielle Union would have gone with Klay Thompson

Getty Images
1 Comment

Honesty from your spouse is a bedrock of any good relationship.

But come on Gabrielle Union, show your man a little love.

Dwyane Wade got one second-team All-NBA vote, and he took to an Instagram story to thank that voter (even if he wouldn’t have voted for himself). His wife would not have voted for her man.

Just a few notes:

• That is a funny video.

• We do not know who cast that vote for Wade, yet. The NBA’s end of season awards are voted on by 100 media members who cover the league (the NBA selects those voters). There is transparency, the full votes will be released after the NBA’s award show next month.

• Third team All-NBA guard was probably the toughest choice on the entire ballot. Because the NBA forces voters to select only two guards for each of the teams (six guards total), rather than allowing voters to just chose the 15 best players for the honor, deserving guys get left off every year. In this case, Stephen Curry and James Harden were first-team locks. Damian Lillard was a clear second-team choice, and a majority of voters had Kyrie Irving joining him on the second team. Russell Westbrook was not far behind Irving and was clear-and-away the fifth choice for voters. That left one guard spot between Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, or anyone else considered worthy (Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, etc.). There is no wrong choice in that group. If players were not locked into positions for All-NBA more guards would have made the cut in an increasingly backcourt dominated league. (For transparency purposes, I did vote Walker in on my ballot barely over Thompson.)

• No media members I know are comfortable with these votes having an impact on player salaries. It makes us all uneasy, even as voters study and try to make the best choices. The NBA and players’ union need to come up with a better system in the next CBA. I’ve got a crazy idea, how about letting the teams decide who is worthy of being paid that much?

Brooklyn Nets like Kyrie Irving, but how much does he like them?

Getty Images
2 Comments

Kyrie Irving is a popular guy. He has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant and rumors of them pairing up on the Knicks next season have been rampant all over the league this season. Irving also is hanging out with LeBron James in Los Angeles, and LBJ is reportedly up for the idea of getting the band back together (minus Kevin Love, and in Los Angeles this time). Boston has every intention of keeping Irving, and ideally pairing him with Anthony Davis who they would acquire via trade.

The Brooklyn Nets will be free agent players this summer and think they would be an excellent fit for Irving. The goal would be to pair him with All-Star D'Angelo Russell in the backcourt, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

How seriously is Irving considering the Nets? A lot, according to Anthony Puccio of SNY in New York.

Sources tell SNY that Kyrie Irving and his camp are strongly considering Brooklyn if he decides to leave Boston. Irving’s camp has kept a close eye on the Nets as the season progressed and the team got better, with the playoffs only helping their case.

SNY also learned recently that the Nets would not shy away from signing Irving even if they re-sign point guard D’Angelo Russell. The ideal scenario would be to pair two max free agents, such as Kevin Durant and Irving, but sources say the Nets would be open to pairing Irving and Russell in the backcourt together.

The Nets, just like the Clippers, could be major players in free agency this summer (the Clippers are more focused on Kawhi Leonard, but if he chooses to stay in Toronto the Clippers will be a potential force in trades and on the free agent market). This is a young team that surprised everyone and made the playoffs this season, they have a good culture and good role players, they just need a star or two to take them over the top.

Irving could be that guy, or at least one of those guys, in Brooklyn.

Irving will have options and you can bet his decision is not yet made. He may be leaning one way or another, but circumstances with other players and time to think things over may (likely will) change his mind. Maybe a few times.

Where his mind is July 1 matters. It could be in Brooklyn then, but it could be a lot of places.