Namely around two of the games upcoming superstars: Indiana’s Paul George and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving.
Word has already begun to float around that Irving — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft — and George — No. 10 overall in 2010 — are considering leaving their respective teams for greener pastures. In Irving’s case, these reports have come from inside his own camp.
.@BrandonTierney “I’ve heard from someone in the know… Kyrie Irving not long for Cleveland”
— TBD in the AM (@TBDintheAM) July 18, 2013
Irving, continuing to be the intelligent, mature young player that he is immediately took to Twitter to shoot down the report.
I wish I knew “someone in the know” for all my facts, maybe I would go into journalism as well!!
— Kyrie Irving (@KyrieIrving) July 18, 2013
And today, if Irving’s response was not enough reassurance, a report from probasketballtalk.com indicated that he is on the record as having no intentions of leaving the Cavaliers:
Irving reiterated his commitment to the franchise at USA Basketball mini-camp on Monday, saying he’s happy with the offseason acquisitions and has no plans to leave the franchise anytime soon.
“I’m a Cavalier right now,” Irving said. “I’m happy to be a Cavalier. I kind of had a sarcastic approach to it from what was said, because it was probably just a rumor started. I don’t think he knows anybody in my camp, and I don’t know who the guy is. But that type of stuff I don’t even pay attention to. Right now I’m a Cleveland Cavalier and I’m happy to be here.”
Irving averaged 22.5 points, 5.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game in a breakout 2012-’13 season. He made his first All-Star game at the age of 20, joining the rare and elite company of Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the only under-21 All-Stars in NBA history.
He won the 3-point shootout, broke Brandon Knights ankles, impressed in the actual All-Star game, and put himself on the NBA map in 2012. And that’s just what we did see, because for most of the year, Irving and the Cavaliers were not television favorites, playing in just one nationally televised game all season — on NBA TV no less.
But for the Cavalier faithful or League Pass junkies, Irving showcased his star potential all season long. Had it not been for a multitude of injuries, which limited him to only 59 games, Irving may have made an All-NBA team. He turned in so many impressive fourth quarter performances that he has already dawned the nickname “Mr. Fourth Quarter.”
He’s that good, and Cleveland knows it. Which is why it is more important than ever for Cavs management to surround him with the necessary talent to compete at an elite level on an annual basis. Make no mistake, Irving enjoys playing in Cleveland. I believe he will be a Cavalier long-term and have many successful years in the wine & gold.
But he does not have an obligation to. He was not born in Akron and should not feel indebted to to this Cleveland franchise. If things get bad, Cleveland should be prepared for the reality that he won’t stick around for it. He has too much potential to waste.
Luckily for Cleveland, they are on the right track to keeping Irving. Not only will they be able to match any offer that comes his way after his rookie contract expires before the 2015-’16 season, but they will most certainly keep a max-level contract available to offer him. And they didn’t do too shabby this offseason, bringing in veteran point guard Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark and Anthony Bennett as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Irving said. “Especially seeing [number one overall draft pick Anthony Bennett] play, and getting to see [Andrew Bynum] play when he’s healthy. I’m really excited about these pieces.”
“Right now it’s just about coming together, and doing things as a team that will propel us over the top,” Irving said. “What makes the good teams great is that camaraderie and that brotherhood. And that’s what we have to develop.”
While the Pacers have the same inherent advantages that the Cavaliers do with Irving — the ability to offer him a max-contract and to match any offer another suitor can make — they do have one less year to lock him up. And with George’s hometown Lakers unraveling this offseason, it is no surprise that questions of his desire to play for the Lakers have begun to surface.
‘Paul, are you coming to L.A.? Let’s get you in L.A.’ That’s all I’ve been hearing since I’ve been out here,” George told Yahoo! Sports after Monday’s practice at USA Basketball minicamp.
As Spears notes, George will enter the final year of his $3.2 million rookie contract with the Pacers next season. And like Irving, George was a first-time All-Star while having a breakthrough year last season. He averaged career-highs of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Lets not forget that he also averaged 19.2 points in the postseason while leading Indiana within one victory of the NBA Finals.
Rumors about George have surfaced for obvious reasons, as Spears states: “George grew up primarily a Los Angeles Clippers fan in his hometown of Palmdale, Calif., which is about an hour-and-15-minute drive from the Staples Center. But he was also a major fan of Kobe Bryant and has worn Bryant’s No. 24 at Palmdale High, Fresno State and with the Pacers. The Lakers will have money to try to pair George with Bryant in the summer of 2014. Or, if Bryant signs elsewhere or retires, the Lakers could try to make George their next star, George said the speculation about his future is only going to heat up.”
And George understands that…
“Everywhere I go [in L.A.] they say, ‘We want you here. Don’t sign with the Pacers,’ ” George said. “I hear that constantly. It’s getting a little repetitive … but I’m getting used to it.
“I understand it. I can’t really be mad about it. It’s a great feeling when people in the stands really want you.”
But most importantly, George understands that, despite playing in Indianapolis and not Los Angeles, he is in as good of a situation as there is in the NBA right now, and leaving for the glitz and glamour of a big city would be a rather foolish career move:
“I’m happy to be in Indiana,” George said. “I’m happy to be where I am. If I was going to leave Indiana and come to the Lakers, it just wouldn’t be a smart move for me. We got a great thing going right now.”
Cleveland and Indiana are not Los Angeles or Miami or New York, but they are home to two of the NBA’s brightest young superstars.
For now, and hopefully years to come.
Onto more news around the NBA