Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (July 27): Cavs news conference leaves more questions

NBA.com Staff

This morning’s headlines:

Strange news conference in Cleveland leaves more questions — Well, an interesting summer in Cleveland resulted in an interesting press conference Wednesday. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who rarely talks to the media, introduced new GM Koby Altman and of course there were questions about Kyrie Irving’s trade demands. Gilbert compared Kyrie to Kobe Bryant, who asked to be traded from the Lakers a dozen years ago and wound up staying and smoothing out any issues. Gilbert also tweaked the Pacers, saying they should’ve gotten more in the Paul George trade (which seemed to hint that Cleveland offered more). Also, Gilbert brushed away fears that LeBron could leave next summer as a free agent, with the owner and GM saying LeBron seems committed for the short and long term. Anyway, here’s Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com on the Cavs:

“He’s a core piece of what we’ve done,” Gilbert said at Altman’s introductory news conference Wednesday. “Kyrie is a tremendous player. He has made great contributions to this franchise, and we enjoy him as a player and we’re going to keep this stuff in house in terms of what was said in those meetings, but he continues to be a core piece of who we are and what we do.”

Gilbert and Altman would not even confirm that the trade request occurred, even though it has been widely reported since ESPN’s Brian Windhorst broke the news Friday. When pressed if Irving still would be with the team when training camp for the 2017-18 season opens Sept. 25, Gilbert made it sound like Cleveland plans to hold on to the point guard it drafted with the No. 1 pick in 2011.

“Right now, Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year,” Gilbert said, referring to the point guard’s player option for 2019-20. “As of now, he’s one of our best players, and sure, we expect him to be in camp.”

Whether it was denial on the part of the Cavs’ decision-makers or simply an optimistic outlook that the relationship between LeBron James and Irving can be salvaged at this point — despite reports of Irving’s desire to grow outside the four-time MVP’s overbearing shadow — they did not reject the notion of James and Irving playing together next season.

“I think a lot of it has been overblown,” Altman said. “I think the people who are in this building every day haven’t seen any of that animosity. This is, along with Kevin Love, this is a group that got us to three straight Finals and won an NBA championship together. They play great together on the floor, and a lot of that I do think is overblown. We haven’t seen a lot of that ‘animosity’ that’s been out there in the media.”

Multiple Cavs players have told ESPN they are hopeful that there is a reconciliation of sorts between James and Irving this summer and the team stays together as currently constructed. Gilbert, who again only would confirm that “several scenarios” were discussed between him, Irving and Irving’s agent, Jeff Wechsler, on July 7, might have unintentionally confirmed the trade request by comparing Irving to Kobe Bryant.

“I think you also have to look at history sometimes,” Gilbert said. “The other Kobe, not this Koby, Kobe Bryant, I think there was a time [in the summer of 2007] he was calling radio stations and saying he was demanding to be traded and won two or three championships after that point. Things happen and you never know. I’m not saying that happens here. The possibilities of what will happen is wide, and it’s not just one path or one track.”

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Rose good for Cavs and vice versa? — Derrick Rose really didn’t have many choices. More than half the league either doesn’t need a point guard or doesn’t believe in him at this stage of his career, so he had to take a massive paycut, from $20 million to $2 million, for next season. At least he gets to join the Cavs and play alongside LeBron James and give Cleveland a pair of MVPs. Obviously, Rose is not as good as when he won the award but the Cavs will give him a new lease on life. Here’s Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com on the Rose-LeBron union:

Cleveland is starting to engage in trade talks to move All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, and the possibility grows every day that Rose could be afforded a significant role on these Cavaliers. Just a year ago, Rose still believed he could earn a $20 million a year long-term deal, but he accepted a one-year, $2.1 million veterans minimum deal. To regain his footing in the NBA, Rose wanted a real team with real games.

“A one-year deal on a bad team to try and put up numbers — we did not want to entertain that way of thinking,” agent B.J. Armstrong, a three-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls, told ESPN on Tuesday. “Getting up every day to go to the gym to just try and put up numbers — that’s not who he is. He didn’t want to chase anything this summer other than, ‘Hey, let’s get around a group of guys who are like-minded, who are pursuing winning and be a part of that.'”

Rose tried hard to get top Western Conference teams to sign him — the San Antonio Spurs, the LA Clippers — but those teams passed. Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd had interest, but the Los Angeles Lakers and Cavaliers eventually made offers. Teams drafted point guards (Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers), and re-signed starters (Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans) and found veterans on the market (Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves). When his old Bulls coach, Minnesota’s Tom Thibodeau, chose Jeff Teague over Rose, it felt as if the market had bottomed out on him.

No one imagined this dramatic of a drop in the marketplace. Eventually, the Lakers wanted Rose to play behind Lonzo Ball, and be a mentor. Rose lives in L.A. in the summers, and loves Southern California, but he didn’t want to imagine another losing season. Once James and coach Ty Lue became involved in the Cleveland conversations, Rose had a better idea about how it would work for him. In the end, the Cavaliers had interest regardless of the Irving circumstances, league sources said.

Seven years ago, James passed on the Bulls, and Rose didn’t blink. He won the MVP, lost in the conference finals and expected it to go for years and years with James. Only, the injuries kept pummeling Rose, and the Bulls unraveled. And since then, somehow, James hasn’t missed a trip to the NBA Finals.

This is unlikely to be an extended partnership, but Rose and James do have a season together. All these years later, Rose is trying to find his way into the NBA Finals, and for him, no more does it go through LeBron James. Now, it goes arm in arm. Yes, finally, Derrick Rose and LeBron James need each other.

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Davis likes the Pelicans — It’s very important to make sure your franchise player is a happy camper. If anything, that has taught us that it’s the best way to hold onto your main guy. Well, the Pelicans are doing whatever they can do make sure Anthony Davis is thrilled, and if that means signing Jrue Holiday to a massive contract, then so be it. Anyway, they still must re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next off-season, but Davis is liking where the Pelicans are right now. Here’s William Guillory of the Times-Picayune with the scoop on Davis:

It took some time for Jrue Holiday to establish his role alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, but there shouldn’t be any question what the New Orleans Pelicans want from him in 2017-18.

After Cousins was traded to New Orleans this past season, Holiday found himself deferring too often to his star big men. Late in the season, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry started playing Holiday as the shooting guard to get him to be more assertive on the offensive end and it had a positive impact on his game.

With Holiday’s move off the ball, the Pelicans signed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo to a one-year deal to take over as the team’s new floor general. New Orleans is hoping that Rondo’s elite passing can be the missing piece that brings together an offense centered around Davis, Cousins and Holiday.

Davis spoke to reporters via teleconference and said that he’s looking forward to seeing what Rondo and Holiday can do together as the Pelicans’ new starting backcourt.”We’ve talked about moving Jrue to the two and (Rondo) was definitely available for that spot,” Davis said.

“I thought it was a good situation for us. Me and (Cousins) were definitely campaigning for him and trying to get him down here to come play with us. We ended up getting him and we’re definitely excited about that and what he can bring to our team.

“He’s a great passer, great floor general at the point guard position. He knows how to get guys the ball, when to get guys the ball and when to make that pass.”Bringing Holiday–who signed a five-year, $126 million deal this offseason–back into the fold was the Pelicans’ top priority going into the summer, and he’ll play a pivotal role for a team that could be facing a crossroads season.

After missing the first 12 games of 2016-17 because of family issues, Holiday worked to find his rhythm on the court and he started to hit his stride in January. In the 18 games leading up to the All-Star break, Holiday was averaging 19.1 points and eight assists while shooting 51.7 percent from the field.

But after Cousins’ arrival, Holiday struggled as the third option on offense. In his first nine games after the All-Star break, Holiday averaged 13.8 points and shot 39.4 percent from the field.

Davis believes that taking away some of Holiday’s playmaking responsibilities will give him the confidence to attack more consistently and become the perimeter scoring threat that the Pelicans desperately need.

“Giving Jrue an opportunity to get off the ball, he was on the ball a lot last year,” Davis said. “Now it gives him a chance to just go out there and focus on whatever he needs to focus on. He’s tried to get guys involved and at the same time be aggressive, I know that’s probably kind of tough when you’re a scoring guard.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Orlando Magic are still light years from where they stood during the peak years of Dwight Howard, but perhaps this off-season was a step in the right direction … When commissioner Adam Silver raised the possibility of Seattle getting a team again sometime in the future, well, the reaction was positive in the Seattle media.

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