Cavs owner coy about hon­or­ing Kyrie’s re­quest

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

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.

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