Posted Jul 1, 2014 8:22 AM
The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't waste time making sure their new brain trust earned the trust of franchise All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, agreeing to terms with Irving early Tuesday morning on a max contract that will be officially signed when the NBA's moratorium for new deals expires July 10.
The deal -- officially, a five-year extension worth $90 million that will begin in 2015 -- came after Cleveland's leadership group and Irving met in New Jersey on Monday to try to hammer out an agreement. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert led the delegation, along with general manager David Griffin, new head coach David Blatt and new associate head coach Tyronn Lue. The group was "very impressive," according to a source.
Irving tweeted that he's "super excited" and "blessed" to be part of the organization for the long term.
It marked a dramatic turnaround from what had been a couple of rough seasons for Irving in Cleveland since he was the top pick overall in the 2011 Draft. Irving had times of brilliance on the court, winning NBA Rookie of the Month honors three times, the 2012 Rookie of the Year award and the 2014 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award.
But Irving clashed more than once with former coach Mike Brown about game situations, and occasionally irked teammates. It led to rumors that Irving would ultimately leave Cleveland in 2016 when he could have become an unrestricted free agent. Irving consistently denied he wanted to leave, but that kind of talk in Cleveland leaves locals queasy, given the franchise's recent history.
Irving was willing to give the new leadership a chance, however. Griffin replaced former GM Chris Grant last spring, and the team hired Blatt, a wildly successful coach in various stints in Europe over the last decade, earlier this month to replace Brown.
Making sure Irving was going to be in the fold was central to any hopes Cleveland had of trying to entice LeBron James to return to the team he spurned four years ago to join the Miami Heat. Despite the acrimonious atmosphere created by James' departure, the Cavaliers are hoping that their new core group, led by Irving, and bolstered by 2014 top overall Draft pick Andrew Wiggins, can convince James to at least give his old team another look.
James opted out of his contract with the Heat last week, along with teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, in hopes that Miami president Pat Riley could make a couple of additions in free agency to bolster the team's depth and production. The two-time defending champion Heat were throttled in the Finals 4-1 by San Antonio earlier this month.
The Cavaliers have significant cap room to add an impact free agent, and they've also been involved in talks to try and trade for disgruntled Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, with any number of assets available as potential trade pieces, though it's uncertain whether Love would re-sign in Cleveland after next season, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
A league source said the Cavs also were looking at Suns free agent forward Channing Frye.
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