Cavs owner coy about honoring Kyrie’s request
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert spent more than 30 minutes on Wednesday presenting a positive portrait of his franchise to the media.
The reality is that the Cavs are troubled.
In his first public comments since Kyrie Irving asked to be traded, Gilbert would not confirm whether he’ll honor the All-Star point guard’s request, but he also didn’t rule out the real possibility that Cleveland might deal its second-best player — or if he thinks LeBron James will stay around beyond next season.
“These things are fluid,” Gilbert said. “We think that Kyrie Irving is one of the best guards in the NBA. He was part of a championship, three
years straight to the Finals and we value his talent — significantly.”
Despite several direct questions about Irving’s status, Gilbert would not provide any specifics about recent conversations with him or his agent.
Gilbert said he expected the 25-year-old, whose jumper in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals gave the city of Cleveland its first pro championship since the NFL Browns in 1964, to be at training camp in September.
“Right now, Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year,” Gilbert said.
“As of now he’s one of our best players and, sure, we expect him to be in camp.”
Gilbert was clearly attempting to avoid making things worse for the Cavs or doing any further damage to the club’s relationship with Irving, who has blossomed into the one of the NBA’s best backcourt players.
While Irving wants out, the Cavs aren’t obligated to move him and new general manager Koby Altman said the player remains an important piece for a team that has been to three straight Finals.
“Kyrie is a core piece of what we’ve done,” said Altman, who was promoted to full-time GM after filling in when David Griffin left earlier this summer.
“He is a tremendous player who has made great contributions to this franchise. 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.”
It’s been a turbulent sum- mer for the Cavs, who didn’t defend their title and were beaten in five games by Golden State in the Finals.
The bumpy ride began with Griffin parting ways with the club over philosophical differences with Gilbert, who was then rebuffed in adding former Pistons guard Chauncey Billups to his front office.
And while numerous teams got stronger via free agency and trades, Cleveland was hamstrung financially by salary-cap issues.
Then, the Irving trade demand was a cannonball in Gilbert’s basketball pool.
“Well, how is your guys’ summer going?” Gilbert quipped in a light-hearted exchange with reporters.
Beyond its implications with the Cavs, Irving’s appeal to be traded appears to have damaged his relationship with James. The stars have taken swipes at each other with posts on social media, and it remains to be seen if they can patch things up.
Altman dismissed any Irving-James rift.
“I think a lot of it has been overblown,” he 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, a group that got us to three straight Finals and won an NBA championship together. They play great together on the floor. A lot of the other stuff I think is overblown.”
Owner Dan Gilbert denies the Cavaliers are in chaos.