Shootaround (July 22): Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers headed for split?
Plus, can Derrick Rose still make a difference and more news from around the NBA
This morning’s headlines:
Kyrie, Cavs about to split?: Well, the nutty Cavaliers off-season just got crazier with reports from ESPN claiming All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving has asked to be traded so he can be “the man” with another team. Whether this report will indeed result in Irving going elsewhere remains to be seen, but the mere mention of a star being unhappy in Cleveland is jarring. Speaking of which, this can’t go over smoothly with the biggest star of all, LeBron James. Weird, isn’t it, how the Cavs have teetered since reaching the NBA Finals for the third straight season? Here’s Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com with the report:
The request came last week and was made to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Irving has expressed that he wants to play in a situation where he can be more of a focal point and that he no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James, sources said.
Among several possibilities discussed in Irving’s meeting with the Cavaliers, the San Antonio Spurs were raised as a preferred destination, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Other teams Irving said he’d be willing to join were the New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources told ESPN.
The Knicks have strong interest in acquiring Irving via trade, but as of Friday night, they were not willing to include Kristaps Porzingis in any potential deal, league sources told ESPN’s Ian Begley. The Knicks, sources told Begley, would consider including Carmelo Anthony and future first-round picks in a package for the All-Star point guard. The Cavaliers’ interest in such a package is unclear.
Irving also considered the Chicago Bulls before they traded Jimmy Butler, league sources told Begley.
Irving’s agent, Jeff Wechsler, would not confirm or deny whether the point guard asked for a trade.
“Kyrie and I had a meeting with Cavs leadership where we discussed many different scenarios in reference to Kyrie and his future with the team,” Wechsler told Wojnarowski. “The basis of those discussions and what went on in those discussions are between the Cavs and us. We are respectfully going to keep those private.”
Sources told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that the Cavaliers were disturbed that Irving’s request was made public, believing it could affect his trade value.
The Cavaliers parted with general manager David Griffin last month after they couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension. Cleveland has yet to name Griffin’s replacement — sources told ESPN’s Wojnarowski that promoting assistant general manager Koby Altman to GM is imminent — and James, the franchise centerpiece, has reportedly expressed concern about the team’s direction.
How to handle Irving’s situation is complex for the Cavs, as James can be a free agent next summer. Irving has three years and $60 million left on his contract, but he can opt out of the final year before the 2019-20 season.
By asking for a trade, Irving would be willingly giving up the chance to qualify for and sign a “supermax” contract with the Cavs in 2019. This provision, installed in the just-started collective bargaining agreement, was meant to deter star players from leaving their teams as they came up on their third contract. This is when numerous stars want to move, as has played out with Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward and Paul George.
Irving’s contract contains a 15 percent trade bonus that would pay him an additional $2.9 million in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
After winning the Eastern Conference title in May, Irving described his closeness with James and how staying together can benefit them.
“When you get to that level of trust and you allow someone to come into a friendship that extends well off the court,” Irving said, “and you understand how great this era can be if we are selfless to the point where we don’t think about anything else except for the greatness of our team and what we can accomplish.”
Irving had a good relationship with Griffin, who was a point man in selling Irving on a five-year contract extension in 2014 even though the team was coming off four consecutive losing seasons.
Griffin understood that Irving’s desires for his career had to be managed and worked regularly to challenge Irving and, at times, soothe him. Coach Tyronn Lue is also a strong supporter of Irving and has been a strong defender when Irving’s game — which is sometimes more shoot-first than pass-first for a point guard — has come under criticism.
Does Derrick Rose still got game?: Derrick Rose will soon be off the free agent market once he signs with either the Lakers, Cavs or Bulls any day now. The bigger question is this: How much does Rose have left? And can he change his game, from the slashing scorer who won MVP with the Bulls, to a more team-friendly point guard content to pass first? Rose had moments with the Knicks, both good and not-so-good, and still hasn’t reached 30. KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, a long-time Rose watcher, believes Rose can help a team, and explains why:
Having just finished the first season of a no-brainer, five-year, $94.3 million extension, Rose entered the 2012 postseason as the reigning most valuable player, the youngest in league history. Future maximum contracts seemed inevitable.
Instead, a torn right meniscus came in November 2013, just 10 games into his return from his first knee injury. Another torn right meniscus ended his 2014-15 season after 51 games.
Rose played in 64 games last season, his first with the Knicks, before needing a scope of a medial meniscus tear in his left knee in April. He now has played 130 games the last two seasons after logging just 100 over the previous four.
Rose averaged 18 points in 32.5 minutes, both representing his highest totals since 2011-12. His 47.1 field-goal percentage marked his best since 2009-10. And his 10.1 points in the paint per game tied with Russell Westbrook, behind only DeMar DeRozan’s 10.3 per game among guards. (The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, listed as a forward, often played guard and averaged 13.1 per game.)
The point is: Rose still can play. And he will turn only 29 in training camp.
There were plenty of league-wide whispers that the Spurs planned to target him in free agency before Rose needed the fourth knee procedure, his most minor one to date.
“It’s good,” Rose said during an April interview as he sat courtside at the United Center, watching a Bulls-Celtics playoff game with his son.
“I’ll be back before the season starts for sure. So I’m not worried about that.”
In that interview, Rose also said he would enter free agency with “an open mind” and “listen to everyone.”
Nobody should feel sorry for Rose, who still has a lifetime contract with Adidas worth upward of a reported $200 million. Even if he chooses the Cavaliers and a minimum deal, that’s another $2.1 million to play basketball.
The Lakers can offer more money, more playing time and his offseason home long has been based in Los Angeles.
But here’s the thing about Rose’s oft-mocked free-agency comment from 2015: It’s another reminder of why athletes should vie to get as much money as he or she can while he or she still can.
Careers, like the memories of the highlight-reel contortionist drives Rose used to author with regularity, are fleeting.
Timberwolves look to make big leap: The Western Conference just got better, and they didn’t even make the playoffs last season, but the Timberwolves have been re-tooled to become, on paper, one of the most improved teams. Tom Thibodeau’s acquisition of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, both of whom will assume major roles on the team, reeks of substantial impact. Anyway, count long-time writer Patrick Reusse of the Star-Tribune, who has seen it all in Minnesota, among those who are anxious to see what the new changes and season brings:
The final major piece in Tom Thibodeau’s roster manipulation was introduced on Wednesday in a low-key press gathering: Jamal Crawford, the 37-year-old guard who was first added to the NBA on the night of the 2000 draft at Target Center.
He was taken No. 8 by Charlotte, then immediately traded to Chicago for No. 7 selection Chris Mihm. The Wolves were hosting the draft but didn’t have a first rounder due a trade for Bobby Jackson and Dean Garrett.
That also was a couple of months before Xcel Energy Center opened in St. Paul and the Twin Cities learned that a decade had made quite a change in arena architecture, and for the benefit of customers.
Thibodeau had a blasé first season in charge of the Timberwolves, but he has followed that disappointment by bringing in Jimmy Butler through a trade, and Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and now Crawford as free agents.
The starters will be Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, Butler and Teague, with Gibson up front and Crawford as the shooter off the bench. That’s seven deep in strong NBA talent, and Nemanja Bjelica could make it eight were he stay healthy for a season.
The rest of the roster currently consists of Cole Aldrich, Tyus Jones and Justin Patton, the No. 1 draft choice. On Wednesday, Patton could be seen pushing himself around a skyway on a medical scooter, with his left leg folded and with a walking boot.
There was no more Timberwolves’ thing than the recent day when the team issued a release announcing Patton’s signing, followed a half-hour later with a release that Patton had undergone surgery to repair a broken foot.
Timberwolves followers thought they might be done talking about big men with bad feet with the final buyout to the wonderful, wounded bear, Nikola Pekovic, and then his replacement, the rookie, doesn’t make it to Summer League without a bad foot.
This has to change, right? Everything that can go wrong can’t continue to go wrong for one franchise.
OK, the Wolves have brought most of it on themselves, but when you go out and get Butler, a star, and Teague, a well-regarded point guard, and add noble veterans such as Gibson and Crawford – and you already have Towns and Wiggins – it has to work, right?
The silliest thing we’ve been hearing is that Golden State can’t be touched for the next several years, so a team such as the Wolves might as well have kept adding young talent until the next decade, when the Warriors could be vulnerable.
Guaranteeing the future with any athletic team – even in a league as imbalanced and star-dominated as the NBA – is ridiculous. Basketball players break a foot on occasion. Kevin Durant played 27 games in 2014-15 after bone graft surgery in his right foot.
You can’t spend 13 years outside the playoffs, get players with the talent of Towns and Wiggins, and say, “We’re going to keep building.’’
This isn’t about a championship window. This is about getting back into the competitive mix. There’s too much energy in the NBA – people even take notice of Summer League – to continue as complete bystanders.
The new wood-like exterior and improved concessions aren’t going to change the Wolves’ status. Butler, Teague, Gibson and Crawford will do so, as long as the luck switches even a touch.
RANDOM HEADLINES: According to various reports, the Cavs are prepared to promote assistant GM Koby Altman to the spot that was vacated when David Griffin left a few weeks ago. Altman has handled the Cavs’ off-season moves in Griffin’s place … Jonathan Simmons had his best season by far with the Spurs but surprisingly signed this summer in Orlando. He thinks he can make a similar leap with the Magic … JJ Redick isn’t sweating his one-year deal in Philly because he thinks he’s in the right place at the right time … After securing his front office, Suns owner Robert Sarver believes he and the franchise are on the right track.