Aside from the fact that they are an infinitely disappointing team this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have some serious problems on their hands. One of them, of course, is the lack of productivity from their first overall pick Anthony Bennett, but we’ll save that issue for another day.
The biggest problem is their supposed franchise point guard Kyrie Irving.
It was recently mentioned in our blog that Irving had noticeably changed – not for the better – since coming back from last season’s All-Star game. Irving was supposed to propel himself into the category of being a part of the upper echelon of point guards with the improvements the team had made in the offseason, but that simply hasn’t been the case. Opposing point guards have lit him and the team’s defense up for much of the season, and his true shooting percentage of 52.1 percent is at an all-time low.
With everything going so terribly wrong, will Irving want to stay on this ship? Perhaps not so much, according to Chard Ford of ESPN:
Kyrie Irving has been telling people privately he wants out. Cleveland can’t afford to lose him and LeBron. They know the urgency. I expect them to be major players at the deadline.
Yeah, I see Twitter is blowing up about what I wrote about Kyrie. Thought that was fairly common knowledge that he’s been unhappy there. Maybe not … Don’t overreact. Much, much harder for players in their rookie contracts to leave. They have to take a much riskier path and essential sign a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. Very few do it. And the Cavs are working to try to create a winning situation and culture to make him happy. Didn’t report it to say he’s gone. Just trying to show why the Cavs are trying hard to right the ship right now. Back away from the ledge Cavs fans.
Because of contractual reasons, it probably is unlikely that the Cavs will lose Irving any time soon, but it’s never a good thing when your best player is telling people that he dislikes where he is. Of course, winning can change all of that, but the immediate future does look incredibly bleak for the team. Here is what Irving had to say in regards to the matter, from Jason Lloyd of Akron Beacon Journal Online:
“There’s been so much so-called reports coming out that I don’t want to be here. That’s what you guys get paid to do, but that’s just so much negative attention,” Irving said following the Cavs’ 117-86 loss to the Knicks. “I know we’re struggling, but it’s not about me. It’s about our team. It’s about us fighting every day for each other and me fighting for my teammates.
“Yes, I’m in Cleveland. I enjoy myself. I enjoy going out and competing at the highest level for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about me and it’s not about this controversy, ‘Do I privately want out when my contract is up?’ I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m not saying anything to tell the future, but I’m pretty sure the relationship I have with Dan Gilbert and management extends off the court. I enjoy being here.”
When told he can sign a lucrative contract this summer, Irving said, “I’m aware of that,” but stopped short of saying he’d sign here long term.
“It’s still too early to say. I’m still trying to get through this season.”
He does seem to be dedicated to the process despite all the struggles of the team based on the quotes above, but if he can’t even commit to signing a deal with the team in a restricted situation, you have to assume there is some truth to what Ford said in his chat. And according to what Dan Gilbert said about how important it is to lock up your player after his fiasco with LeBron James, there is no telling how things will end up between the Cavaliers and Irving, from Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
“The key thing, whoever you are and wherever you are, you cannot wait,” Gilbert said before last season. “The big lesson was if a player is not willing to extend, no matter who they are, no matter where they are playing, no matter what kind of season you had, you cannot risk going into a summer and having them leave.”
It seems likely the Cavs will indeed offer Irving a contract this summer that would kick start in 2015. It will probably be a maximum contract because All-Stars like Irving are so rare and valuable. If Irving takes it, the team will control him for perhaps the next six years.
If Irving doesn’t sign it, well, Gilbert said it all. No matter who they are … you cannot wait.
A dicey situation, indeed.
CLIP OF THE DAY:
After struggling for much of the season due to offseason surgery on his knee, J.R. Smith appears to be looking more like himself in recent games. After shooting 36.8 percent or worse in the first two months of the season – about as ugly as it gets – he has upped his shooting to 43.1 percent in January. During Thursday’s rout of the Cavaliers, he completely and utterly embarrassed Tristan Thompson with one of the best crossovers of his career:
Ouch. It doesn’t get much worse than that for Thompson. Or does it? It’s unconfirmed as to whether he hurt himself on that particular play, but he did have to get an X-ray after the game:
Tristan Thompson seen entering x-ray room. Brown says turned ankle. #Cavs
— Shlomo Sprung (@SprungOnSports) January 31, 2014
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
This one is weird. After beating the San Antonio Spurs without James Harden on Wednesday, Chandler Parsons seemingly took a shot at his All-Star guard. Check it out, from The AP (h/t Matthew Tynan of SB Nation):
”When he’s out, we have a more balanced attack,” Parsons said of Harden. ”We run our sets and get the best shot available. When he’s not there, we don’t go one-on-one as much.”
OTHER NEWS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE: