Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (July 26): Kyrie Irving trade request begs the question: What do stars want?

NBA.com Staff

This morning’s headlines:

What does a star want? — Why would a guy request a trade from a team that has made three straight trips to The Finals and is the favorite to make a fourth? Cleveland.com’s Bud Shaw isn’t sure, but believes the Cavs have the opportunity to get better in a Kyrie Irving trade…

Kyrie Irving isn’t the player he thinks he is, assuming he thinks he’s the centerpiece for a sustained run on NBA championships.

What’s best for the Cavs and their fans, though, is if some team (or three) sees Irving in the same way he sees himself.

The rest of the league knows the Cavs must deal Irving now. But time and Irving’s marketability would seem to be on the Cavs side.

What we have here is the chance for the Cavs to remake themselves for next season and possibly beyond.

The Oklahoman‘s Berry Tramel examines the motivations of superstars in the context of Russell Westbrook facing his next big career decision…

Kyrie Irving wants to be traded. The stated reasons, according to NBA insiders, are varied. Desire to run a show himself. Tired of LeBron James’ omnipotence.

Perhaps Irving, who has been Tonto in three straight NBA Finals, would prefer his Junes free of basketball. Maybe the Cleveland winters have frozen his brain.

Hard to tell anymore what NBA superstars want. Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, where he was the face of a state, not just a franchise, and joined a team of all-stars. Now Irving wants to leave a team with an NBA Finals reservation, just so he can be the face of a franchise.

Reminds me of an Olympic epiphany I had during the 1996 Atlanta Games. I talked to boxers who wanted a gold medal so they could buy their mom a house, and I talked to gymnasts whose parents had mortgaged their house to fund a gold-medal odyssey.

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Should Suns go after Irving? — The Phoenix Suns have put it out there that they won’t be trading Josh Jackson in a Irving deal, but one Phoenix writer believes that they shouldn’t the rookie’s potential should stand in their way of acquiring the Cavs’ point guard. The Arizona Republic‘s Dan Bickley says the Suns need to focus on the present and get the star…

Start with the philosophers, who will tell you that the future doesn’t exist. It’s just an idea, an illusion, a concept. Memories belong to yesterday and time is only now. Sports franchises can’t begin to envision the pitfalls that accompany a long-term plan or a homegrown championship, much less plan for them. Long-suffering Valley fans have learned this lesson the hard way.

End with a baseball analogy that transcends sports: Sometimes, you have to swing for the fences.

The latter applies to the acquisition of Kyrie Irving, who is only 24 years old and one of the most gifted scorers in NBA history. He just posted a career-best 25.2 points per game while sharing the ball with LeBron James and Kevin Love. Those who believe Irving coat-tailed his way to a championship ring seem to forget he made one of the biggest shots in NBA history, a decisive 3-pointer to topple the Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

After scoring a combined 78 points in two games of Cleveland’s 2017 Finals loss to the Warriors, including a 40-point effort in an elimination game, this is what James had to say about his teammate:

“He’s just been built for that moment. I said that over and over again, that he’s always built for the biggest moments, and tonight he showed that once again. It’s not surprising. He’s just that special.”

So tell me again why this is a bad idea.

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Blazers take eraser to summer of ’16 — The Portland Trail Blazers spent a ton of money last summer, signing Festus Ezeli and Evan Turner, re-signing Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard, extending the contract of C.J. McCollum, and matching the Nets’ offer sheet on Allen Crabbe. Before Tuesday, Portland was looking at a luxury tax bill of more than $40 million for the 2017-18 season. But by trading Crabbe to Brooklyn, they erased that and began to erase what the Oregonian‘s John Canzano believes was a big mistake…

It’s more than a salary dump. It’s an admission of what we all knew: That the summer of 2016 was a rotten, lousy, no-good mistake. General manager Neil Olshey corrected some of his worst work with a trade that couldn’t have been easy for him to make.

Crabbe was Olshey’s guy from the start. He traded two future second-round picks on draft night 2013 to secure Crabbe from Cleveland. Olshey then went about setting up his draft pick for success, clearing the path for minutes and production. Then, he overpaid for his own production last summer, matching Brooklyn’s four-year, $75 million offer sheet for the restricted free agent Crabbe.

On Tuesday, Olshey finally gave up on Crabbe. It took a full year. In doing so, he saved owner Paul Allen money and created some flexibility moving forward.

Even with the added payroll flexibility, NBC Sports‘ Dane Carbaugh wonders how the Blazers can climb the ladder in the Western Conference

Portland is in a tough position given that none of their recommended moves from last year seem to have gone their way. Still, Olshey has been a good GM for the Blazers. He spun wheat into gold by trading for Robin Lopez, and grabbed Nurkic, a potential franchise building block center when he’s healthy for a non-championship caliber big man in Mason Plumlee. He locked down Aminu on a descending salary deal. He has done quite a bit.

Portland still has the ability to be a trade partner in deals including Carmelo Anthony, which could net them usable players or potential future assets. But what is getting harder to understand is how Portland is going to get any better outside of the roster they have now given salary considerations, team fit, and ceiling.

Drastic internal development or relenting on either Turner or the Lillard-McCollum backcourt pairing are likely the only two realistic ways the Blazers will be able to make a dent next year.

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Randle gets in shape — #MUSCLEWATCH Alert: Julius Randle has lost 15 pounds by changing his lifestyle this summer. As the Orange County Register‘s Mark Medina writes, Randle is ready to play positionless basketball in his fourth season with the Lakers…

The game looked easy for Julius Randle, as he bullied his opponents with drives to the basket at one end of the court and blocked shots at the rim at the other.

Granted, Randle performed these duties in recent pickup games at the Drew League, the L.A. pro-am league that features assorted players from the NBA, overseas and college teams. After devoting his offseason to conditioning drills, usually three times a day, though, Randle believes he can show the same kind of speed and mobility wearing a Lakers uniform.

“I’ll be able to move and not have to think about it,” Randle said. “It will be effortless.”

That’s because Randle said he currently weighs 243 pounds at 6 percent body fat after playing last season with a 258-pound frame at 13 percent body fat. Randle said he focused more on following through on the Lakers’ request that he improve his conditioning than worrying about them including him in the failed Paul George trade proposals.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carmelo Anthony still has his eyes set on Houston … Chauncey Billups knew of Irving’s unhappiness when he interviewed with the Cavs for their GM job … The Wizards’ offseason wasn’t very exciting, but that was the plan all along … The Hornets are auditioning Norris Cole and Donald Sloan among others for their third-string point guard spot … and the Rockets could set a record for the most money paid for an NBA franchise.

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