July 30, 2014

Supporting cast, contract confidence yields Wiggins-Love answer

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Kevin Love. Andrew Wiggins. It’s been exhausting, and we’re looking at four more weeks of it as the No.1 overall pick’s contract clock ticks. Granted, it’s not “LeBron James” exhausting. It’s more nervous excitement. The Cavaliers are going to have three REALLY good players one way or another. I’ve been quite outspoken in my desire to hold onto Andrew Wiggins, and I stand by that earlier sentiment. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not excited by the thought of James, Irving, and Love playing together in Cleveland.

But, if I’m reading the writing on the wall, Kevin Love will be a Cleveland Cavalier, Andrew Wiggins will probably be a Minnesota Timberwolf, and the weight of expectations on the Cavaliers will increase. They’ll go from Eastern Conference contender to supposed Eastern Conference shoe-in and maybe even title favorite. And that’s the scenario I want to talk about. [Read more...]

Dion Waiters added to US Men’s Select Team

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Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters is one of 13 NBA players named to USA Basketball’s Men’s Select Team. The Select Team is essentially a practice squad for the Men’s National Team. Kyrie Irving was on the Men’s Select Team prior to the last Olympics.

“USA Basketball’s Select Teams are critical for getting some of the game’s brightest and most promising young players experience at the USA National Team level, and getting them into our pipeline,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball National Team managing director.

Both the National team and the Select Team will train in Las Vegas July 28-31, in preparation for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

In addition to Waiters, the Men’s Select Team is comprised of Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors), Trey Burke (Utah Jazz), Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York Knicks), Tobias Harris (Orlando Magic), Doug McDermott (Chicago Bulls), Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic), Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets), Miles Plumlee (Phoenix Suns), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics) and Cody Zeller (Charlotte Hornets)

Kyrie Irving is the lone Cavalier on the Men’s National Team this year. LeBron James will not be participating in the FIBA tournament.

[Related: Whitlock says Canadian players "don't want it as much"]

 

Is there a difference between lucky and good? While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday WFNY!

I have to be honest, for sports fans like myself, the period from MLB post-All Star break to the start of the NFL season can be a bit of a drag. It’s not that I dislike watching the Indians. In fact, I have them on right now as I am writing this (yes, I write these on Monday nights, not Tuesday mornings). But in terms of really exciting events in sports, there just isn’t much.

NBA free agency has mostly wound down. Sometimes there are still some big trades, but August is typically the time most team executives take their vacations. NFL training camp is starting, and that’s fun, but it’s not always the most exciting thing in the world. English Premier League soccer doesn’t start until August 16th. These next couple weeks can be somewhat slow on the hard hitting headlines outside the annual Browns QB Competition.

I say all of this not to be a downer, but more to serve as a pre-emptive explanation/apology for today’s WWW being a little shorter than what I normally do and a little more outside the Cleveland Sports box. I just don’t have a ton of Cleveland Sports related things to talk about at the moment.

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What does it mean to be a “well run” NBA team?

I’ve been thinking about this a little bit lately. I’ve seen some talk about how lucky the Cavs are to have LeBron back and how it’s unfair that the Cavs are rewarded for their incompetence. I can’t sit here and say those people are wrong. I said last week that nobody in the Cavs organization deserves credit for LeBron’s return. Heck, we all know that if LeBron was from Omaha, there’s no way he’d be on the Cavaliers right now.

Scheiner and MoreyBut there can be a fine line between perception and reality within the confines of being a well run team. The Spurs are often credited as being the best run franchise in sports. Very few people would disagree with that. But the Spurs haven’t had to deal with losing Tim Duncan yet. The Detroit Red Wings were considered the best run NHL franchise just a few years ago. But after Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, the Red Wings have struggled to regain their status as an elite franchise. Now some are question both GM Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock. Being a well run franchise is so much easier when you have that superstar anchor.

But perhaps the most fascinating case study falls with Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently after reading Matt Moore’s take on the Cavs’ “petulance” being rewarded with LeBron. In particular, Moore writes:

The big winners of the 2014 NBA offseason are the Cleveland Cavaliers and the big losers are the Houston Rockets. Except Houston has been run well, and Cleveland has been a disaster. Go figure.[…]

Meanwhile, on the other side, here’s Daryl Morey. He turned Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks into James Harden. He cleared space for Dwight Howard and successfully pitched him after years of building a competitive team while also accumulating assets. He found takers for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, contracts he signed because at the time, they were major talent upgrades. He offered Chris Bosh the chance to compete for a title now, in a role preventing him from having to bang down low and would maximize his talents in a tech-savvy organization with no state income tax.

Instead, he got Trevor Ariza.

The NBA’s not fair. And you can ask Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Greg Oden … or former Bucks owner Herb Kohl, who tried to build a winner the right way during his tenure. But the events of the past four days reveal more than just that simple imbalance. It reveals a legitimate flaw in the NBA’s design.

These are points that most people across the NBA would probably agree with. But not everyone is buying into this line of thinking, especially when it comes to Morey. Last week in a post on Medium.com, T.D. Williams wrote a scathing rebuke of Morey’s reputation among those in the media.

Whereas Moore listed the great moves Morey has made, Williams looks at it a little differently:

A close examination of Morey’s signings and trades raises as much skepticism as reason for praise: when the Rockets were forward-heavy and in need of a point guard, he traded Kyle Lowry and let Goran Dragic leave, only to replace them with an overpaid Jeremy Lin — a player the Rockets had on their roster the season before, at league minimum salary, before they waived him. He traded Nicolas Batum — a do-it-all small forward who might be an even better piece on a title contender than Parsons — for Joey Dorsey and a draft pick that became Sam Young. He overpaid the offensively limited Omer Asik, then gave max money to Dwight Howard, whose presence made Asik redundant. He wasted a mid-first-round draft pick on Royce White, a red-flagged prospect who provided Houston more headaches off the court than minutes on it. He has boasted about advanced strategy while employing a coach who is known more as a player favorite than a tactician. Houston’s supposedly revolutionary offense of driving and shooting 3s has often looked disorganized and short-sighted down the stretch in playoff games.

So which one is right? They probably both are. To paraphrase Pat Riley, “this stuff is hard”. Building a team requires a lot of things, some of which is scouting talent, but a lot of which is luck. Daryl Morey is hardly faultless as a GM. And yes, I would argue he is pretty severely overrated as a front office executive. He makes a lot of moves that look great on paper, but his big picture plan is never really in focus. He cycles through player acquisitions at an insane rate, endlessly searching for that magical fit that will work. However, most teams would absolutely be thrilled to have Morey working for them.

As for the Cavaliers and their plan, well, up to this point the post-Decision plan hasn’t been working at all, and there are plenty of fingers to be pointed and plenty of deserving recipients of said pointing. However, if I have a point of contention with the likes of Matt Moore and Bill Simmons who have questioned a system that they feel rewards teams who are run poorly, it’s that I think the system is actually kind of doing what it is supposed to.

Basketball is a funny sport where teams like the 76ers and Celtics who try to lose and succeed at it are perceived as doing things right while teams like the Cavaliers and Bucks who have tried to win and failed are perceived as the ones benefitting from a flawed system. The NBA Draft Lottery was designed to be a safety net for teams that fail. The whole purpose of using a lottery instead of a pure record-based draft order is to prevent teams from tanking. The fact that the Cavaliers won the lottery from the ninth position this time or from the eighth spot with the Clippers pick in 2011 should be a sign that the system is working. Now, it’s bizarre that the same team keeps winning, but there’s nothing strange about teams jumping up to win the lottery. That’s how it is supposed to work.

Again, none of this is to say the Cavaliers have done things right. Their plan was not to finish outside the playoffs and then jump up to the number one slot. They got insanely lucky. And they are lucky that LeBron James is from Akron, Ohio. And they are lucky that LeBron is willing to stop chasing rings to instead try to bring that elusive title back to Cleveland. This isn’t a defense of the Cavaliers last few seasons, but rather, a defense of the system and a closer look at what makes a team a well run team. Morey’s reputation has been largely untouchable, but what separates him from RC Buford in San Antonio? Is it all structural and organizational, or is some of it luck that the Spurs have had Tim Duncan, a once in a lifetime kind of player and person? What happens to the Spurs when he eventually retires? Will the Spurs continue to be the class of the NBA, or, like the Red Wings in the NHL, will they become a franchise that flounders through continuous seasons of mediocrity and early playoff exits? Only time will tell.

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Kyrie Irving’s adjustment

I said on Twitter last week that in some ways, I kind of feel sorry for Kyrie Irving. Sure, he just signed a massive long term contract extension and now he gets to play with LeBron James and thus, for the first time in his NBA career, not be the sole point of focus for opposing defenses. So maybe feeling sorry for him is a bit strong.

kyrie editHowever, after everything he went through last season, all the insane levels of criticism, the doubting of his desire to be in Cleveland, the constant string of article after article questioning his commitment to the franchise and his commitment to winning, the fact is that Kyrie took all of about five seconds to agree to an extension with the Cavaliers. And he did so well before the LeBron rumors had really heated up. He answered at least that aspect of his critics’ questions about his commitment to Cleveland.

Sure, some will say “of course he signed right away….nobody else was going to offer him that kind of money”. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t criticize a guy all season and say there’s no way he’s going to stay in Cleveland, but then turn around when he does sign and say “well of course he did”. For many, maybe even most, Kyrie staying in Cleveland was not a certainty. So on a certain level, Kyrie deserves some credit for doing what so many thought he wouldn’t do.

And for a day or two, he did get the credit and recognition he deserved for it. But then the LeBron avalanche started and suddenly Kyrie’s commitment was an afterthought. No longer is Kyrie answering questions about himself, but instead it seems like every question he is asked is about LeBron. So where I feel sorry for Kyrie a bit is in my fear that fans are overlooking how important it was for Kyrie to buy in.

But now come the questions about Kyrie adjusting, and those are certainly fair. For the last couple years, despite being just 20-21 years old, Kyrie has been asked to be a leader on this team. Everything has been about building around Kyrie. The Cavaliers were his team, and when he signed his extension, we assumed it would be his team for the future. All of that changed when LeBron decided to return.

Now, this will immediately become LeBron’s team again and Kyrie will have to adjust to not being “the guy”. In late game situations with the game on the line, the ball will start in LeBron’s hands, not Kyrie’s. If Kyrie embraces this adjustment, though, it can be a huge thing for him. LeBron’s presence can finally give Kyrie a veteran mentor who can show him how to lead, and how to win, and how to deal with being the focal point of a team. LeBron’s presence could be and should be positively liberating for Kyrie.

And eventually, as LeBron gets older and starts to slow down, the team can transition into Kyrie’s hands when he’s more ready for it. Similar to how the Spurs slowly morphed from purely being Tim Duncan’s team into Tony Parker’s team. The same kind of mentorship program can exist in Cleveland. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how Kyrie accepts his changing role on the team.

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Dare we talk about prison on a sports site?

Ok, I’m going to go way off topic here. When we initiated the change in format to WWW with Scott, Rick, Craig, Jacob, and myself each taking a designated day of the week, I wrote that one of my goals for this change was to allow all of our personalities and interests to carry through. Some of that will extend beyond sports. Obviously sports will always be the main topic of WWW, but sometimes we like to show some of the other sides of our personalities and the things that interest us. So, with that being said, why not try talking about something quite different here?

By now you guys who read WWW every day know that I am an enormous fan of John Oliver’s work on HBO’s phenomenal “Last Week Tonight”. This week, his main segment touched on America’s broken prison system:

This was a pretty coincidental topic, because another one of my favorite forms of entertainment is listening to NPR podcasts and, in particular, one of my favorite shows “This American Life”. In Act Two of this week’s show, “Mind Your Business”, they talked about the recent scandal involving Los Angeles County’s abuse of inmates. So, with two of my favorite shows talking about incarceration this week, I thought I would share these links and encourage everyone to watch/listen.

I’m far from qualified to offer up any kind of solution, but it’s clear to see we have an issue in America. Our prisons are becoming increasingly overpopulated, creating an increasing burden on tax payers. And while some feel the solution is the privatization of jail services, these cost cutting businesses open the door for severe human rights issues. The treatment of prisoners is pretty alarming in some situations, particularly with what happened in Los Angeles County. And while I know some people feel that we shouldn’t care what happens to people in prison, that they deserve whatever happens to them there, I struggle with that line of thinking when these kind of studies exist.

At the end of the day, like I said previously, I recognize that I don’t have the answers. Yet I feel like turning our backs on issues because they don’t personally affect us isn’t the best way to find answers. There are so many bleak stories on the news and we are trending toward apathy. I’d love to exist in a world where issues like this, and the environment, and energy, and equality would transcend politics. I get disheartened when conversations boil down to liberals and conservatives rehashing tired party lines. I’d just like us to at least be able to agree on what the problems in America are. It’s hard to figure out answers when we can’t even agree what the issues are.

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Anyway, that’s it from me this week. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your week, and I’ll be back next Tuesday where we might have some actual Browns stuff to talk about! Cheers!

Mike Krzyzewski would trade Wiggins for Love “without hesitancy”

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Coach K was on CBS Sports Radio and talked about the Cavaliers and trading for Kevin Love.

“I think there’s absolutely not one second of hesitancy,” Krzyzewski said on The John Feinstein Show. “I’d trade for Kevin Love. That’s not saying anything about any of the other (players involved in the deal). Love’s an All-Star.”

Krzyzewski mentioned the window of opportunity that the Cavaliers are looking at with the addition of LeBron James, which is something I alluded to last week when writing about the potential trade.

“You look at LeBron and you have the best player in the world,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s 29. I’m not saying he’s at the end of his career, but he’s in the second half of his career, let’s put it that way. And in the first half of his career, he was becoming a great player. He was a great talent becoming a great player. That takes time – just like if Wiggins or Bennett are going to be great, it’s not going to happen right now. They’re great talents. LeBron is a great player right now. You do not want to waste any year of a great player’s career.”

Coach K also talked a little about LeBron’s decision, plus coaching the US National Team.

In addition he mentioned how quickly he believes Kyrie Irving would develop surrounded by LeBron James and Kevin Love.

(H/T For the Win)

[Related: Cavaliers planning to sign Wiggins this week?]

Kyrie Irving selected to join Team USA for 2014 Training Camp

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Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will take his shiny, new contract extension to Las Vegas where he will join 18 other NBA players as members of this summer’s U.S. national team roster.

Irving will join a litany of point guards—Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Portland’s Damian Lillard, and Golden State’s Steph Curry—as some of the hand-picked talents to potentially represent the country in the World Cup of Basketball in Spain in late August.

The Americans previously announced a 28-player pool in January, though it was planned that mainstays LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul would sit out this summer and perhaps come back at the 2016 Summer Games. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said the roster could be trimmed to 15 after the camp in Las Vegas that begins July 28, with the final 12 selected soon thereafter.

Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, James Harden and Anthony Davis were four holdovers from London Olympic Games. The rest of the roster includes Rose, Lillard, Curry, Klay Thompson, Blake Griffin, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, DeMarcus Cousins, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried and Kyle Korver.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein considers Irving, who has missed 34 games due to injury over the last two seasons, to have a “strong claim” on the final roster.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Details of Kyrie Irving’s contract extension emerge

Kyrie Irving

Lost in all of the news surrounding LeBron James’ return to Cleveland was official word that the team inked All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to his contract extension. While the deal is set to conceivably keep Irving in Wine and Gold through 2020, the former No. 1 pick can opt out after his fourth season.

Here are the details per Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

The terms of Cleveland star point guard Kyrie Irving’s five-year, $90 million contract will include an early termination option for the 2019-20 season and a 15 percent trade kicker. […] Irving’s deal includes the “Derrick Rose” provision, which allows Irving to gather 30 percent of the Cavaliers’ salary-cap space instead of 25 percent.

Blake Griffin and Paul George are the only other designated player to receive the ability to opt out after their fourth season of the extension. To get his player option, George had to drop his Rose-rule-raised salary from 30 percent to 27 percent. Griffin, though, got his full 30 percent along with an early termination option, meaning that Irving’s contract has exactly one peer—and it just so happens to belong to one of the most explosive players in the league. 

The full value of Irving’s extension will not be known until the 2015-16 salary cap is set next July. If the cap rises by the same amount it did this past year, the baseline would be roughly $90.7 million. Having been voted into the All-Star game last season, Irving would trigger the Derrick Rose rule – raising his contract to $108.8 million based on the the same projected cap – only by winning MVP or being voted as an All-Star starter this coming season.

Between Irving, James and (potentially) other free agents, Dan Gilbert’s checkbook will be getting plenty of burn over the next four years.

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

A monarchy restored, but the subjects never left

LeBron's back

I spent nearly four years holding onto a lot of hard feelings when it came to LeBron James. A lot of us did.

The first year could only be described as raw and open wound hatred. The second year, culminating with LeBron’s first championship, was acceptance. What Cleveland had been resisting had happened, and even though it was incredibly painful, it allowed the wound to start to clot and scar.

In year three, it was more apathy than anything. Watching James and the Spurs go toe-to-toe, I at least started to watch for the spirit of a good series of playoff basketball once again. One or two rings, it didn’t matter as much. Then, the fourth and final year in Miami, one could feel the tide start to turn. Some people, a good portion of people, no longer wanted to actively boo James at all. The Heat started to look human in the regular season, and there was the thought that maybe, just maybe, if things didn’t end in a three-peat, James would look to move on to somewhere else. [Read more...]

Irving Courting LeBron to Cleveland?

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The full court press is on for the services of LeBron James.  The Cleveland Cavaliers could be getting help from their newly signed star.  According to Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico, Kyrie Irving is making a pitch to LeBron James about joining the Cavaliers.  Amico goes on to say that ESPN reported Irving saying to LeBron that the Cavs will get all the help he needs.  This could be a welcoming development in the race to sign LeBron James.  Irving can pitch to LeBron that the Cavs are a young team that can grow together and sustain winning for more years then the Heat can.  The Cavs’ biggest draws are their youth, cap flexibility, and playing at “home.”  The Heat have their two championship rings and Pat Riley to entice LeBron back to South Beach.

The battle to get LeBron has been a social media explosion.  There are so many rumors floating around about what he will do and when he will decide.  The only real concrete information is that LeBron will meet with Pat Riley in the next couple of days to discuss free agency.  After that, it is anyone’s guess (and I mean anyone) on what will happen after this reported meeting.  For now it looks like a two horse race for Lebron, Cleveland and Miami.  Many inisders have stated that the decision should come sometime this week, but no one really knows for sure.  All I can say is that we all hold on tight and keep refreshing twitter every second.

(Photo by: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Andrew Wiggins as a 2-guard and other areas of concern – WFNY Roundtable

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One of the best qualities of Waiting For Next Year is the diverse interests of our many writers. After the draft, I asked two of my WFNY colleagues for their take on Andrew Wiggins and his key areas of highlight/criticism going forward. Enjoy.

Jacob: All three of us wrote about Wiggins. Kirk, in your film room series. Joe, in your position rankings. Me, in my analytics review. Obviously, I’m the token analytics guy and you two are in more of the traditional scouting realm. It’s a great combination. So I thought it’d be fun to ask you some questions that remain on my mind. [Read more...]

Video: So, this is what $90 million feels like?

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In case you’re wondering what agreeing to a $90 million contract feels like, here’s Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving five hours into the NBA’s free agency period.

5 o'clock this morning this dude wakes me up, I'm half sleep tryna celebrate with him lol, yal congratulate my brother @k1irving ! #DreamsComeTrue

On Kyrie and Commitment

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Kyrie Irving walked the walk. After what seemed like an eternity of rumor and innuendo surrounding his disdain for Cleveland and the drain-circling direction of the Cavaliers, all of which were verbally rebuffed by the point guard, Irving took minutes—not days, or weeks, or even months—to provide the handshake that will keep him draped in wine and gold through 2020. For months, Irving was the subject of boundless speculation. For months, fans demanded a sign that he was, to borrow a phrase, “all in” on Cleveland. He could say whatever he liked—it was what he did that mattered.

Well, at the first chance he was given, Irving put his money where is mouth was. And so did the Cavs—$90 million worth.

[Read more...]

Kyrie’s staying, Klinsmann’s “American-ness”, and The Leftovers, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY! And Happy July!

Sometimes July can be a bit of a dull sports month for me. I’m not exactly the world’s biggest baseball fan, so sometimes the month can be a bit of a drag for me. But not this July. The World Cup has been the most exciting World Cup in my memory, and it lasts through July 13th. Then we have the NBA’s Summer League. The Cavaliers will once again participate in the Vegas edition of Summer League. It runs from July 11th through the 21st. In fact, the Cavaliers play the Bucks on the first day of Summer League, which means we’ll get to see the first Andrew Wiggins vs Jabari Parker matchup. Finally, the Browns start Training Camp on July 25th, just four days after Summer League wraps up. Not to mention NBA free agency will be ongoing all month.

So there will be no shortage of things to occupy my sports interest this July.

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Kyrie is one loyal Cavalier!

Well, he’s a rich one, anyway. I had pre-written a segment last night about Kyrie for this morning’s WWW. When I woke up and saw the news that he had already agreed to sign, I was naturally ecstatic, but it also meant I had to completely scratch my Kyrie section and write a new one from the start. And you know what? I am perfectly fine with that.

I happened to still be up at midnight for the official start of free agency, and I decided to be smart ass and tweet:

I figured there was a very good chance that this would drag out a bit as both sides worked out some details. Boy was I wrong. Just a couple hours later came the tweets from Dan Gilbert, Adrian Wojnarowski, and my favorite one of them all, this tweet from Kyrie Irving:

Look, far be it from me to try to put a damper on anyone’s jubilation. Nobody is a bigger Kyrie fan than I am, and today is one of the happiest mornings I’ve had as a Cavs fan for a very long time. A 22 year old two-time All Star PG just decided to sign the longest contract possible to stay in Cleveland. The cynics will say “of course he did, it’s just about the money and now that he has the contract done he can try to force a trade out of Cleveland”. I’m cynical about a lot of things, but Kyrie Irving is not one of them. Despite all the external speculation about his relationships with coaches and teammates and his burning desire to get out of Cleveland, the fact is he has always said the right things and, outside his one big mistake on Fan Night a couple years ago, he has done the right things and represented the Cavaliers in a way that we should all be proud of.

There’s a good portion of the fan base that has never warmed up to Kyrie and has chosen to blame him for most of the Cavs problems. Maybe they’re right. Maybe it is mostly his fault. I can’t say anyone is right or wrong, it is only my opinion that the Cavs problems have been much more with the players, front office, and ownership issues than with the one really good basketball player this team has actually had.

I feel like some fans have kept Kyrie at a distance in part because of latent feelings of mistrust and heartbreak over LeBron leaving. It takes time to let someone back in after getting burned like that on national TV. But I hope now that Kyrie has shown he means it when he has always said he wanted to be here long term, some of those fans will start to loosen up and just enjoy Kyrie Irving for what he is rather than judge him for who he is not.

We don’t always get good days being Cleveland sports fans. But today is one of those good days!

And now back to my debbie downer stuff that was written before Kyrie agreed to sign…

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Will the Cavaliers be free agency players this summer?

I want to say yes. I really do. The Cavaliers have plenty of cap space as is, and they can more or less create as much cap space as they need. They have an exciting young core in Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson (I guess). They have an intriguing new coach. They have incredible facilities and an owner who is more than happy to spend. And they have a pretty great fan base, too (if only that was a bigger factor….or even a factor at all). So why shouldn’t they be a free agency player?

The problem is, right now, it’s hard to find any information on any players being linked to the Cavaliers. I searched the web all over for rumors of any player having any interest in Cleveland whatsoever1. I found nothing.

That’s the hardest part of being a Cavaliers fan sometimes. It’s fun to fantasize about big free agency moves the team can make, but the reality is, free agents just aren’t interested in Cleveland unless the team is willing to overpay them to a degree that other teams won’t match. It’s just a brutal and harsh truth to swallow.

On Yahoo! Sports’s list of the Top Ten NBA Free Agents, not a single one is linked to Cleveland. NJ.com made a list of the Top 25 Free Agents and listed the top three most likely destinations for each of them. The only ones that had Cleveland in the list of three potential destinations are Lance Stephenson and Andray Blatche. ESPN.com did a roundtable discussion of the top free agents, and Cleveland wasn’t mentioned once anywhere. Lance Stephenson was mentioned as one of the most likely to be overpaid, so maybe Cleveland is inherently implied there. Finally, USA Today released their list of Five Teams to Watch When Free Agency Starts. No mention of Cleveland.

We’ll see what happens. I’m sure the Cavaliers will sign someone, but it just might be more of an Earl Clark type signing than a Chandler Parsons type deal. I hope I’m wrong. I hope David Griffin can succeed where Chris Grant failed and really bring in some exciting free agent targets. But history is not on Cleveland’s side.

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But at least the Cavs have Andrew Wiggins!

Last week I had WWW duties on Tuesday before the draft, so I still didn’t know who the Cavaliers were going to take. And while I was heartbroken over Joel Embiid’s injury, I had decided that I just wanted the Cavaliers to do the safe, smart, and relatively boring thing and take Andrew Wiggins. So I was ecstatic when they did just that.

When I say it was the boring move, I mean comparatively. In recent years the Cavs’ drafts have been an adventure. It was so enjoyable to have a nice, calm, relaxing evening knowing the Cavaliers had the player who was the consensus #1 pick for most of the previous year.

I don’t know how good Wiggins will be. Projecting potential is tricky. But I saw a photoshopped image of Wiggins next to 18 year old LeBron. I was struck by how similar their body types were. Not to say Wiggins will be even close to LeBron, but the photo got me thinking, what would have happened to LeBron’s draft stock had he been forced to go to college and then played in a system that maybe wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for him? Would playing in the slow constraints of 35 second shot clocks and deliberate offenses have hurt his stock at all like it did Wiggins? Perhaps.

I mean, there’s no reason to think LeBron wouldn’t have destroyed college players. He’s the best player in the world. But even thinking back to LeBron’s rookie year, as exciting as he was and as bright as you could see his future was, he wasn’t anything close to the dominant player he is today. These things can take time. So I hope fans can be somewhat patient with Wiggins as well. If Wiggins can grow into his body even to a degree half of what LeBron did it will only help his game. Wiggins may never be the physical presence LeBron is, and it’s silly that I keep mentioning their names together. It’s completely unfair to Wiggins. I just wanted to point out that Wiggins is an incredibly exciting prospect and the Cavaliers organization is unbelievably lucky to have won the lottery and have him. Now it’s up to the team to both be patient with him and also develop his skills and put him in the best position to succeed.

Anyway, check out Scott’s incredible Wiggins profile from yesterday. No matter what happens in free agency, this is a time to be excited about the Cavs and to allow ourselves to have a little hope.

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USMNT will win in whatever way is necessary

Today is a big day for another reason. The US team will face Belgium in the first knockout round of the World Cup today at 4:00 pm ET. I’m more nervous and excited for this game than I was for the Ghana game four years ago at this same point in the tournament. I feel like last World Cup the US felt a little lucky to have advanced thanks to Landon Donovan’s incredible late goal. This year, I feel like the team is more on a mission, making a statement by advancing out of the Group of Death.

I really want the team to capitalize on this opportunity to show the world that US soccer is on the rise and that Jürgen Klinsmann is changing the very perception and definition of what “US Soccer” stands for. I’ve made no secret of my personal admiration for Klinsmann and what he is trying to accomplish for the sport inside this country. But he is leaving behind a trail of scorned doubters along the way.

I’ve seen some criticism lately of Klinsmann’s philosophy of going out and recruiting multinationals to play for the US. It’s this idea that Klinsmann’s German heritage is an affront to what being a “real” American is all about. But this was a country founded on principles of inclusion. This country has been and continues to be far from perfect in that goal, but the American Dream stands for something real.

I suppose in a perfect world it would be nice if the USMNT only featured “true blue” Americans. I guess. But where would this team be without those multinationals? It was John Brooks who put in the winner against Ghana. It was Jermaine Jones whose incredible strike turned the tide against Portugal. Fabian Johnson has been one of the most consistent players for the US in the World Cup, flying down the sides and keeping possession for the US in attacks. When Jozy Altidore went down against Ghana, it was Aron Johannsson who stepped in and did the best he could. All of these players have one thing in common….they are all American citizens. They may not live in the US, English may not be their first language, they may not “look like us”. But they all have at least one American parent and they all are citizens of this country.

Klinsmann is dreaming big. People may not have liked his comments about it not being realistic to think the US can win the World Cup, but I think they missed the point he was trying to make. He’s trying to grow something special in the US Soccer establishment, and he’s not just trying to win this World Cup. He’s looking even bigger picture than that. And his first step was to raise the talent level of the entire team by looking at all Americans, not just those who are “real” Americans.

By bringing in some multinational Americans to elevate the play of the USMNT, Klinsmann is banking on elevating the national awareness of the sport as well. The US team has now made it to the knockout round in consecutive World Cups for the first time ever. That’s a huge achievement. But they can’t stop there. It’s time to start making some consistent noise in the knockout rounds as well. So today is a huge day for the team and the sport in general in this country. But even if they lose, I don’t think it’s the end. I think it’s only the beginning for future opportunities for this team. Those who only tangentially follow the sport may not care for all of Klinsmann’s antics, but I get what he’s doing and I’m really happy he’s in charge of US Soccer. I just hope he can follow through on his vision, and a big part of that starts today against Belgium.

This piece is a little old, but I loved what Aaron Gordon wrote for Sports on Earth on the topic of Klinsmann and his perceived “American-ness”:

American soccer differentiated itself from the European game only because it had to. Italy could have played an attacking style at any point, but it chose not to until recently. In the 1950s, Brazil adopted an individualistic, talent-driven style, because they had five of the best forwards in the world on the same team. England typically has deployed a rough defensive style, relying on long balls, because it fit their talent pool. Likewise, American soccer has relied on physical prowess and lots of running, because that’s what you do when you don’t have the instincts and skills to be in the right place at the right time. The team developed its identity not to align with American ideals, but because it was not very good at soccer.

But we are getting better, and as a result we are evolving. Largely due to an influx of continental players, the U.S. team has options now and is reaching beyond its previous identity, the way a toddler goes from a crawl to a walk. It’s a natural progression of a growing, improving entity, and here again, it has very little to do with a national identity.

We are not that different from Europe, but we are very different from what we imagine ourselves to be. The German journalist Josef Joffe once said that America is “less a country [than a] canvas, a continent-size Rorschach blot, on which to project their own preoccupations.” His observation holds true for American soccer. We can look at the same manager and come to two diametrically opposed conclusions as to whether he is a representation of American ideals, because America is whatever you want it to be.

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The Leftovers

Time to wrap up WWW with this week’s pop culture segment.

I don’t know if Lost is my absolute favorite drama of all time. But it’s Top Three for sure, right up there with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. I was on board with Lost from day one through the finale. I loved every second of it (with the exception of some of the middle parts of Season Three before the writers had set an end date for the show). As a result of my love of the show, I’ve been anticipating the new HBO drama The Leftovers for quite some time.

The Leftovers is based on the book by Tom Perrotta, and the show is being run by former Lost show runner Damon Lindleof. The show debuted last Sunday and….well…I don’t know how to feel about what I saw. Keeping this spoiler free, the premise of the show is that suddenly 2% of the world’s population just disappears in an instant. And nobody knows why. Was it the rapture? Was it something scientific? Was it something supernatural or alien? Nobody knows. And the show doesn’t really care, either.

You see, the show starts three years after the disappearances. Rather than focusing on the mystery of what happened, where those people are, and whether or not they’ll ever return, the show instead deals with those still living and how their lives have changed in dealing with the unexpected losses. The world of The Leftovers is dramatically different from the real world, but those still there try to masquerade their world as normal. To varying degrees and using dramatically different methods, everyone is just trying to cope.

And that’s where my issue with the show’s debut was. This was hands down the most wholly depressing pilot I have ever seen. I thought The Walking Dead was bleak, but that show has nothing on the soul-sucking emptiness of hope, happiness, and fulfillment we see in The Leftovers. There are no signs of redemption, no indicators that life is going to get better. In fact, there are clues that things are only going to get worse.

The show was directed by Peter Berg (of Friday Night Lights fame) and Lindleof and Perrotta are working together on the show’s script and direction. So there’s no reason this show shouldn’t be a success with those three guys leading the project. But I don’t know. I just don’t know if I can take a whole season of this show’s emptiness. I want to like this show, I really do. So I’m going to give it the whole season to win me over. But at some point I hope there is something to cling to. Some kind of chance for redemption for these characters. Otherwise, watching these zombie-like shells of human beings just wallowing their way through abject misery just might be a little too much even for me.

But I’d love to hear from you guys. If you watched the premiere, what did you think? Are you excited for more, or are feeling the same apprehension that I am? Let me know in the comments.

That’s it for me this week. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July, and I’ll see you guys here next Tuesday!

I believe that we will win! Go USA!

 

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Footnotes:

  1. with the exception of a certain someone who I do not believe will really consider coming back []

Cavs agree on five-year max contract extension with Kyrie Irving

Terrific news within two hours of free agency: The Cavaliers have agreed to a five-year max contract extension with star point guard Kyrie Irving. The deal is reportedly worth $90 million.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the agreement, then Cavs owner Dan Gilbert followed up with a celebratory tweet of his own.

Reports on Monday suggested that, as expected, the Cavs would meet with Irving in New Jersey and offer him the max extension. The new contract will take place for the start of the 2015-16 season, not this upcoming one.

Celebrate for now, folks. It’s nice to now that Kyrie Irving will be in Cleveland for a long, long time to come. A max deal could potentially change in value if Kyrie is an All-Star Starter again this coming season … but details are for another day.

As expected, Cavs reportedly ready to offer max deal to Kyrie Irving

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Let’s make this as simple as possible.

Kyrie Irving has been playing on his rookie deal since being taken No. 1 overall back in 2011. At the time, he signed a four-year $23.2 million dollar deal. Irving is entering the last year of that deal.

The Cavaliers are going to offer Irving an early extension of five years and in the neighborhood of $90 million. On Monday, Chris Broussard tweeted that the Cavs were flying to New Jersey in order to meet with Irving on the first day that they can offer the deal, July 1.

There had been speculation that the Cavs may not offer Irving the max, and of course even more that Irving will not be willing to accept the Cavaliers’ offer.

Irving would become a restricted free agent should he decide to play out his existing deal, meaning the Cavs would have the ability to match any deal offered to Kyrie after the 2014-2015 season.

For a more detailed look at the ramifications of Kyrie’s deal, check out Joe’s piece at WFNY back in late January.

[Related: It's not that difficult for the Cavs to have space for a max contract]

No, it’s not that difficult for the Cavs to have max contract space

david griffin

There appears to be quite a deal of confusion about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ salary cap situation. Let’s try to clear the air with some math, shall we?

Just last week, GM David Griffin said the team could clear space for a max contract “just by waving our hand and making it happen.” Seems simple enough, no?

And then today, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst grouped the Cavs with the Rockets and Bulls that would “need to execute significant shuffling and perhaps even offload star players to clear [the maximum] $22.2 million.” Well that’s a bit of a different picture. [Read more...]

Is Kyrie Irving “all in” on Cleveland? While We’re Waiting…

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Griff dropping subtle hints? In the 24 hours immediately following the NBA Draft, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin was carefully selecting his words, seen by many to be verbal warning shots. When the Cavs used the No. 1 pick on Andrew Wiggins, Griffin—in what was a change from previous years—immediately addressed the pick via conference call. During said address, he made sure to mention that Wiggins wanted to be in Cleveland, which was seen by many to be a jab at Jabari Parker, the player taken with the No. 2 pick, who allegedly tanked his workout with the team.

But was this a shot at a player he didn’t draft? A day later, Griffin used the term “all in on Cleveland” to describe Wiggins, a descriptor he used to describe himself just weeks earlier when he won the team’s general manager job. In his Sunday column, Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto iterated that Griffin’s word choice may in fact be aimed in the direction of one of his current players in Kyrie Irving.

Irving is reportedly on board with the selecting of Wiggins. He was one of the first to usher in David Blatt as the team’s new head coach. The Cavs will offer him the maximum contract extension allowable by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If Irving is “all in,” he’ll accept the deal. If he tries to be cute, Pluto believes the team will try to trade him. This leads to an intriguing, if not potentially agonizing, topic that has gone a bit under-discussed: The extensions signed by John Wall and Paul George last season were not inked until July 31 and September 22, respectively. Just because Irving doesn’t sign on July 1 doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to be in Cleveland.

The two-time All-Star has a crazy summer ahead of him—Team USA responsibilities will keep him in Las Vegas (OMG LAS VEGAS!?) in late July, Chicago and New York (OMG NEW YORK!?) in mid-August, Spain in late August through the middle of September. Sure, Jeff Wechsler (his agent) will be the one doing the bulk of the work, but it’s not like Irving will be sitting in Independence deliberating until a decision is made. These things take time—just enough for the rumors to swirl in countless directions, whether he’s “all in” or not.

***

Bringing back the ground and pound? The writing is on the wall for the Cleveland Browns to pull a 180 this season and become a run-first team. Several local papers focused an ample amount of coverage on Ben Tate and what he brings to the fold (we’ll throw the ABJ a bone here) as the team reverts away from being one that led the entire NFL in passing attempts a season ago. Browns OC Kyle Shanahan’s offense will reportedly be “predicated on being able to run effectively while mixing in the pass,” which means that Tate and his colleagues (Terrence West, for starters) will be seeing plenty of work while Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel will be asked to keep the defenses honest. After a season of having nary a run game, the zone-blocking scheme mixed with talented running backs could make for an interesting season on the lakefront.

The Browns’ offense will never be confused for the Broncos or Saints, but if things go according to plan, there will be some methodical movements of the ball as they wear down the opposition and strike when the time is right.

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These photos of this weekend’s Rock Hall yoga event from Ariel Agents over at Cleveland Scene are worth your time.

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So remember that “fan advisory board” the Browns were putting together? Apparently they sounded off during their first meeting. Topics of disdain? The lack of care for season-ticket holders (compared to the Cavs and Indians, the Browns are AWFUL when it comes to taking care of their top clients), the constant turnover within the franchise, and the way FirstEnergy Stadium is constantly overrun with opposing fans. There are some interesting tidbits that err on the side of vague regarding the Dawg Pound—a concept that it appears the team would like to have transcend just one section of the stadium. The Browns appear to be “all in” on modeling themselves after the Seattle Seawhawks and their incredible fan base. We’ll see if this initiative helps.

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Flush those listicles, folks. Here’s this week’s edition of #ActualSportsWriting:

How Scott Kazmir came back” by Tim Keown (ESPN The Magazine): “He needed silence as an asylum from judgment and expectation. He needed to be alone with his doubts and embarrassment and confusion, to retreat from the well-meaning cacophony of advice, away from the Angels’ stadium parking attendant who told him he needed to keep his front side closed a bit longer, away from the usher who thought his stride was too short, away from even his father, who said he’d be every bit as proud of his son if he never threw a baseball again. Yes, Scott Kazmir needed the noise — the infinite chirping of an infinite number of birds — to cease. He needed the only voice in his head to be his own.”

From St. Louis to Recife in search of “the spot” by Chris Jones (ESPNFC blog): “A man called simply The Mustache unlocked the gate for Steven Lange, and he took his first few steps onto the grass, still wet from Thursday’s calamitous rain. By Friday morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the high sun lit every quiet corner of Estadio Ilha do Retiro, the storied home of Sport Recife, a local first-division side.”

Astro-Matic Baseball” by Ben Reiter (Sports Illustrated, with bonus points for production): “It is one thing to commit to only making decisions that will lead to a long-term goal, and another to figure out how to make those decisions. Blackjack is an exercise in hard probabilities. Evaluating baseball players is something else. Some information you can gather about a baseball player is hard: how fast he can throw a fastball, how quickly he can reach first base. But much of it is soft: how diligently he will work, how his power stroke might develop, how likely he is to become injured.”

A century of American Soccer anxiety” by Ian Crouch (The New Yorker): “Haven’t we reached a point where it is enough simply to watch the games? Millions of people do, taking pleasure in seeing top-flight soccer and in the tournament’s distinctive global drama. For newcomers, it can be met with curiosity, even wonder, rather than contempt dressed up as national pride. We can be shy about soccer, but we don’t need to be afraid.”

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And just because: Bartolo being Bartolo…

The Huh Continues: The NBA Draft, Kevin Love and the Quest for LeBron

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NO PRESSURE

The NBA draft is tonight.

It’s finally here. We made it. After months of speculation, the Cavs will actually draft someone with the first overall pick.

Or they’ll be the first team in two decades to trade the first pick.

You know, either or.

[Read more...]

The Finals, Free Agency and Trading Kyrie? While We’re Waiting…

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Happy Monday, kids. Hope you enjoyed your Father’s Day weekend. We’ll have some Tribe talk in just a bit, but for now…

With yet another dominating win, the San Antonio Spurs simultaneously thwarted the hopes of conspiracy theorists and fans of collusion with one fell swoop. Showing that team play will—more often than not—triumph over the sporadic style that comes with clinging to the play of the few (or, in this case, the one), Timmy and Pop and Manu and Tony (and Patty and Tony and Kawhi…) didn’t just win four games. What the Spurs did to the Heat will be talked about for years, an outright clinic that was one two-point game away from being a sweep of the Mighty Heat. What the Spurs did, what with winning their fifth championship in the Tim Duncan era—the star and the coach winning rings 15 years apart—will be talked about as long as the NBA continues to exist.

Say what you want about Bill Simmons, but it was the Grantland.com Editor in Chief who was not only quick to point out the Cleveland corollary that came with LeBron James being forced to step up in the absence of 11 others, but also that there will never be another 15-year stretch for an NBA franchise to accomplish what the small market, whip-smart Spurs have done. The league isn’t set up to reward teams like the San Antionio Spurs thanks to the rules that encourage player movement. Perhaps its this, the total omission of the easy way, that makes this Spurs dynasty that much more special. Perhaps it’s the way that the Pop-led franchise slices and dices the opposition, playing much of their game below the rim. Perhaps it’s the way general manager RC Buford pieced together this unit, focusing on fit more than outright athleticism and star quality—the championship podium had more flags draped over shoulders than an Olympic ceremony—this version of America’s team ironically being the most diverse. Perhaps it’s all of the above.

The next month or so will be filled with discussions over what this means for the two-and-a-half deep Miami Heat. For those hoping for a window of opportunity for LeBron James to return to Cleveland, the 2014 NBA Finals could not have gone any better—that window is as open as it has ever been. For now, however, it’s should undoubtedly be about the San Antonio Spurs and a 15-year run that has come to fruition without any help from the Collective Bargaining Agreement or collusive players looking for an easier route to the Holy Grail. Built, not bought.

Required on-deadline reading:

***

Speaking of the Spurs… Veteran big man Boris Diaw is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Diaw and Cavs general manager David Griffin have a lengthy history, dating back to their time spent in Phoenix. I know that the stars are aligned for Griffin to be reunited with Alvin Gentry, but I’d be hard-pressed to not give a look to Diaw who is one of the many heroes to have played a role in the team’s fifth championship. So what if he’s a bit out of shape. Let’s forget that he came into the league as a point guard and realize that those days are well behind him. He’s a savvy passing big man who can only serve to aid in space. It’d be a tough sell to get him to leave an incredible organization for—well—whatever we have in Cleveland, but he’d be one of the first phone calls I make come July.

***

If you missed this weekend’s “Hey, Mary,” Cavs beat writer Mary Schmitt Boyer was inundated with some of the most absurd levels of fan questioning in the history of mailbags. The perpetual undervaluing of a 22-year-old two-time All-Star is incredible.

***

The Money Phone is the new Bat Phone. Can you hear me now?

***

Welcome back, David Chappelle. You’ve been missed.

***

And just because: Celebrating prolonged greatness.

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Kevin Love says trade to Cleveland “not outlandish at all”

Jim Mone, Associated Press

Jim Mone, Associated Press

So you’re saying there’s a chance? In an interview with The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre, Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love referred to rumors of Cleveland Cavalier interest as “not outlandish at all.” Love has reportedly been angling to be traded from the Timberwolves, but had listed potential suitors that did not include Cleveland. ESPN Boston later reported that while Cleveland—owners of the No.1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft—has interest in Love, that the feelings were not mutual.

“I try not to read [the rumors],” said Love. “A lot of it is brought to my attention through outside sources, sometimes Twitter. But like most people, I need to be conscious of my image and try to roll with the punches. I know that’s a generic answer. I don’t think the Cleveland [trade rumors] are outlandish at all. They have a great young foundation.”

It was reported late Tuesday that the Cavs have no desire to trade the No. 1 pick and have honed in on Kansas’ Joel Embiid as the next member of the Wine and Gold. Embiid was in Cleveland earlier this week and all reports are coming out positive.

McIntyre stated that the only stipulation to his interview was that there were to be no questions about the Boston Celtics—one of Love’s reported favored landing spots. The Cavs have plenty of ammunition to acquire Love, but it be a gamble to acquire a player who could leave in just one season—just ask the lottery-selecting Los Angeles Lakers and Dwight Howard. The Celtics, Bulls, Kings, Suns, Lakers, Warriors and Rockets are believed to be the main teams in on the Love sweepstakes. But at least the player admits that Cleveland could get it done if they were willing to roll the dice.

Kyrie Irving shares a pic of his 2014 Hyperdunk PEs

Kyrie Irving 2014 Hyperdunk PE 1

Via @HLeung13 on Instagram

Kyrie Irving may or may not be the next in line for his own Nike shoe, but he recently shared a shot of his very own 2014 Nike Hyperdunk PE.
Currently on tour for Nike Basketball in Hong Kong, the two-time All-Star point guard broke out the new shoe while conducting a skills session.

This current colorway is a bright crimson with volt and black accents. If history is any indication, the Cavalier star will have an array of PEs for the upcoming season. What this means for the Irving-backed Hyperrev remains to be seen. Nike is presently selling a version of the velcro-topped shoe complete with the Irving insignia on the tongue.

Kyrie Irving Hyperdunk PE 2014 2 Instagram