April 24, 2014

Cavs’ David Griffin: “I’m not going to campaign—I’m not running for mayor”

Cavaliers' GM David Griffin

The message was officially delivered. The Cleveland Cavaliers are done “acquiring assets.” Just days after the franchise wrapped up a 33-49 season, one that left them just short of their goal of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, acting General Manager David Griffin sat in front of the local media and ensured them that, after years of rhetoric revolving around assets and banter that treated players as if they were poker chips, the team is shifting into “targeted acquisition mode.”

Expected to have $26 million in salary-cap space this off-season, Griffin pulled no punches when it came to addressing the Cavaliers’ current weaknesses. He referred to several instances over the course of the 2013-14 season where his team was “selfish” and did not trust one another. Specific to the roster, Griffin stated that the Cavs need to—are you ready for this?—get bigger, get smarter (have players with a higher basketball IQ), shoot better, and be tougher.

Though the team is also armed with the ninth-overall pick (assuming the lottery plays out as it stands), Griffin said that the Cavs will no longer look to get lucky in the draft. Though they have plenty of areas for improvement, he repeatedly said that the team’s success will hinge upon how players fit within the confines of the current core. “There is nothing that can be done to an NBA roster that we are not capable of doing,” Griffin said of the flexibility he is afforded.

The overarching question will be who, whether it is Griffin or an appointed General Manager, will be making these impending decisions as the team continues on. Griffin is currently operating as “Acting” General Manger, stepping in for Chris Grant who was fired earlier this season and  though he hasn’t gotten official word from Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert, Griffin spoke confidently, stating that he is on the same page with those making the decisions.

“I feel no great sense of wonder,” Griffin said of his current title and suspiciously quiet owner. “I feel very confident ownership and myself will be moving in the same direction. But I also don’t need to hear from them to know that I need to get better.

“I’m not going to campaign. I’m not running for mayor. Our results are totally unacceptable. I understand what we need to do to get better. And if Dan and his ownership group are of that mindset, we’re going to get better together.”

Numbers Don’t Lie: Cavs took huge steps defensively in 2013-14

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Across from the coach’s office within the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room is a poster-sized sheet that serves as a reminder for what this team had set out to accomplish heading into the season. All 30 NBA teams, listed in order by opponent field goal percentage—a widely-used gauge to determine defensive prowess in a game that can vary widely in the way of pace of play. Last season, when Byron Scott took that final walk, the giant metal door clicking behind him, the Cavs were listed 30th. When Mike Brown was reintroduced just days later, the message was clear: If the Wine and Gold were going to improve, it would be through defense. And while they did not make the playoffs, a goal that was clearly disseminated from the top, the team did improve substantially on the defensive end, finishing 12th in the league in opponent field goal percentage with a mark of 45.2.

Other defensive statistics also show marked improvement. After finishing the year 25th in points allowed per game in 2012-13, this year’s unit finished 16th. The Cavs (perhaps surprisingly) had the fifth-lowest average for opponent points in the paint (38.9) and had the seventh-lowest average in fastbreak points (12.1). They finished 2013-14 17th in defensive efficiency (104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), one year after finishing 26th (106.9). Where they failed, at least in the way of being among the top third of the league, was in three-point percentage, finishing 22nd (.367). 

Offensively, the team was a mixed bag as they ranked 22nd in scoring (98.2) and 27th in field goal percentage (43.7) after ranking 19th (96.5) and 29th (43.4) in 2012-13. The Cavs ranked 17th in pace of play this season—a mark that by no means has a direct correlation with success—after finishing last season 12th. They finished the year 23rd in offensive efficiency (101.3). In 2012-13, they were 23rd as well with a mark of 100.8.

Statistical improvements or regressions, at least when it comes to team-wide output, can rarely be linearly extrapolated into subsequent years. They’re largely a function of the individual players and their fit within the system. Anderson Varejao will be a year older with a partially guaranteed deal. Much will change between this unit and the one which will take the floor this October.

Many of the numbers listed above, while improvements, represent a jump to league average. The LeBron James-led Cavalier units under Brown were frequently among the best in the league. It’s clear that the team made strides defensively as compared to a year ago—a goal of theirs heading into the year—which was the goal in bringing Brown back for his second tour. If he is retained beyond this summer, it will be for these reasons, with the hopes and conviction that that poster across from his office displays something even more favorable come this time in 2015.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Big changes coming to Cavs…Maybe

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris Grant

So we know that Dan Gilbert is none too pleased. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ majority owner is reportedly fuming, having set his sights on the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season, only to fall just short in a year when countless teams around him missed the playoffs intentionally. Gilbert has a reputation for being short-sighted and reactionary, supported by recent firings and re-hirings. With the Cavs on the outside looking in, many assume that more of the same will be on the way, but FOX Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico says that while some changes are going to happen, no decisions have been made regarding the front office, head coach or roster.

How displeased is Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that his team missed the playoffs? Well, “enraged” was the word most used by sources to describe Gilbert’s overall feelings. “Inside the organization is like a time-bomb waiting to go off,” said one.

That doesn’t mean Gilbert will overreact and start firing everybody, sources cautioned. It does mean he is expected to strategically (and perhaps slowly) find the best fit for running the basketball side of things this summer.

That could mean keeping interim general manager David Griffin and giving him the job on a full-time basis. Sources said Gilbert has been impressed with the improved culture in the Cavs’ locker room since Griffin took over. However, Griffin landing the gig is still not considered a definite. One source close to the situation described the idea of keeping the current front office entirely intact as “shaky.”

Amico expands on the status of head coach Mike Brown, which is expected to be determined this summer. The team owes Brown four more years of a five-year, $20 million deal and is less than a year removed from a press conference where the head coach was the definitive man to lead the team for the second time. Apparently, Glbert is very unhappy with the fallout of the Luol Deng deal, especially with the growing belief that the award-winning small forward will be playing elsewhere next season.

And the priority? Make Dion Waiters Waiters and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving work as the long-term starting backcourt. Just who will be tasked with executing on this plan will apparently be the giant variable.

Vìva uncertainty!

(AP Photo/Jason Miller)

Kyrie Irving continues to screw with Cavs fans

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With less than a week remaining in the regular season, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving continues to play games with Cavalier fans who are concerned about the All-Star point guard’s future with the team. This past weekend, Irving vaguetweeted in a way that would make a teen girl blush out of admiration, putting the following tweet in quotes.

A quick Google search leads to nothing in the way of a well-known (or even obscure referenced) quote. Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Jodie Valade dug into the ever-enlightening pages of UrbanDictionary to find out that “jumping the fence” means “the moment when you are trapped in a bad situation, and you are quickly trying to get away, hoping things won’t get worse.”

Earlier this month, the point guard was the subject of an interview wherein he was not painted in a pretty light, one which stated that “his camp” had been intimating that he yearns to leave Cleveland. The rumors were quickly refuted, Irving stating that reporters should “be man or woman enough” and ask him directly. Well, on Monday, Irving was questioned about the tweet, to which he responded, “I’m going to let you dissect that. I’m just going to let you dissect that. Whatever you want to think about that.”

The Cavaliers could be eying up a ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, placing them with the worst odds at the NBA Lottery and one spot outside of the postseason—this is commonly known as NBA Limbo. Irving is expected to be offered a contract extension this summer, which he could accept or decline. He’s just 22 years old, has all the talent in the world, and continues to be scrutinized every step of the way. He can will his team to victory one night and take the next one off, expecting nothing in the way of direct or indirect recourse. He holds most of the cards, but has grown increasingly frustrated when being asked to show them. Whatever he meant by that tweet, it’s going to be a long two months.

(Photo via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Cavs fans, brace yourself for the Joe Dumars rumors

The wheels are officially in motion. With news coming out that Joe Dumars will resign from his position as Detroit Pistons team president, it shouldn’t be too long before the long-time Detroit native starts to see his name turning up more frequently with regard to (fellow Detroiter) Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers are currently being run by David Griffin, who assumed the position of acting general manager following the firing of Chris Grant earlier this season. Not long thereafter, ESPN.com writer Brian Windhorst was a guest on Detroit Sports 105.1 with Matt Dery and mentioned that Dumars and Gilbert are neighbors and show a lot of “mutual respect” for one another. In what could serve as a bit of corroboration, HoopsHype tweeted that Dumars was “rumored to be in the mix” for the Cavs’ GM job, while also mentioning how awful he was in Detroit.

Dumars has spent 29 years with the Pistons franchise, as both a player and an executive, and has had a hand in every Detroit title. Conversely, Dumars drafted Darko Milicic in 2003, gave $90 million to Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon in 2009, and signed high-priced free agents Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this past offseason, all leading to a 28-49 record in a dreadful Eastern Conference. This was once the guy who was going to land LeBron in 2010—he “had it all figured out.”

Things could be worse. After all, Windhorst also linked Cleveland to…Isiah Thomas.

(Photo: Clarence Tabb, Jr./Detroit News)

Kyrie Irving takes to Twitter to defend himself against reports

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard took to Twitter following his team’s brutal loss to the Atlanta Hawks and shot back at reports that he, once again, wants out of Cleveland.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, in an interview with Cavs: The Blog, stated that Irving’s “camp” has been leaking desires of the player wanting out of Cleveland “for years.” Windhorst stated that the All-Star point guard is not a fan of head coach Mike Brown and was not a fan of Chris Grant—the latter who was fired mid-season.

There has been smoke billowing out of the Irving rumor mill for most of the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately for the player and fans alike, the true “clarity” can’t come until July if or when he signs a contract extension.

Daniel “Booby” Gibson setting his sights on a return to the NBA

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As the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves fighting for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, one of their long-time guards is working on getting back in to the NBA after watching the entire season unfold from the outside. In an interview with Baller Mind Frame Gibson discusses his most recent injury, his desire to take a year off and his plans to get back into the league he had called home since being selected in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft.

BMF: How much does watching those kids play for your AAU team make you want to get back on the court?

Gibson: (laughs) Listen! I decided at the beginning of the year when I injured my foot again to take the year to get my mind right and see if this is still what I want to do. That’s what drives me. These kids look up to me like I’m their Michael Jordan. It inspires me to get back in the gym and get back out there.

Really, March Madness kind of put it over the top. I’ve been getting myself back in the right frame of mind to make a run at getting back in the league next season.

BMF: Do you think it will be a challenge getting back to the league?

Gibson: I definitely have to prove myself over again. These teams want to know why. Teams were contacting me at the deadline to see if I wanted to comeback for a 10-day contract. I was really hiding out. Nobody really knew what was going on with me. So I know I got to come back and prove myself. I know it will be difficult, but with the mind frame that I’m in, I know I can accomplish whatever it is I want to do.

To our knowledge, this is the first report of Gibson receiving calls regarding 10-day contracts. He’s been spending a lot of his time outside of the league working with kids in AAU formats, tweeting and uploading photos to Instagram, but there hasn’t been much in the way of his name being among the headlines.

Knowing what Booby is capable of, the fact that he’s received some interest from teams isn’t all too surprising. Between the personal problems and injuries that Gibson had dealt with during his tenure with the Cavaliers, he’s certainly one player Cleveland fans could rally behind if he were to make a comeback—especially if it’s another team making the financial commitment.

Photo: Scott Sargent / WFNY

NBA Rumors: Cavs looking to sign Seth Curry to 10-day contract?

Seth Curry

While this can only be classified as a rumor, there appears to be some smoke billowing out of a potential 10-day contract between the Cleveland Cavaliers and guard Seth Curry. Initial reports of Curry joining the wine and gold started to creep out early Wednesday morning and have picked up some steam since.

Leung’s tweet suggests that Curry has already inked a contract, but there’s been no announcement from the team. Curry, brother of Warriors star Stephen Curry, had a brief stint with the Grizzlies earlier this season after going undrafted this past summer. Curry was also in camp with the Warriors in the fall, but he failed to make the opening-night roster. The 6-foot-2-inch guard is averaging 19.4 points and 5.9 assists in 35.3 minutes per game for the Santa Cruz Warriors. He was also the namesake for (Grantland’s) Shane Ryan’s first home as a blogger—so there’s that.

The Cavs have a full 15-man roster, though half of the 15 are experiencing some sort of ailment1. They could terminate their 10-day contract with forward Shane Edwards to make room for Curry or could simply wait for Edwards’ deal to expire this Friday night. With expectations of Kyrie Irving (who played with Curry at Duke in 2010-11) missing the rest of the regular season with a biceps injury, Curry would provide much-needed depth behind Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova and CJ Miles.

Photo: Michael Conroy/AP

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Footnotes:

  1. Seriously. Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, Luol Deng, CJ Miles, Matthew Dellavedova, Carrick Felix and Dion Waiters are all on the injury report in some form or fashion []

Cavaliers among teams interested in Jimmer Fredette

The potential for a Wine and Gold whiteout may soon increase as the Cleveland Cavaliers are among teams interested in acquiring impending free agent Jimmer Fredette, though it has been categorized as “unlikely.”

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that Fredette, who is presently in buyout negotiations with the Sacremento Kings, could be a free agent as soon as Thursday. Fredette’s representatives have already commenced talks with interested teams, with one source saying that the third-year shooting guard is giving strong consideration to signing with a “playoff team in the East.” The Cavaliers, presently four games back in the Eastern Conference, are reportedly joined by the Chicago Bulls in terms of potential suitors of the former BYU standout.

The Akron Beacon-Journal reported that the Cavaliers’ level of interest in Fredette could depend on the health of guards Dion Waiters (ankle), C.J. Miles (knee) and  Jarrett Jack (season-long slump), whose respective situations are allegedly expected to be clarified Thursday. Recently adding stretch center Spencer Hawes to the fold, the team is still on the lookout for a consistent three-point specialist—Jimmer Fredette, a career 40-percent 3-point shooter, fits this very mold.

Another day, another reminder that the Cavs could trade Kyrie Irving

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In the midst of a two-game losing streak and a hellacious March knocking on Cleveland’s door, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst comes strong with a piece laying out the potential for the Cavaliers to trade All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving if a contract is not signed this summer.

If Kyrie Irving truly wants to be on a different team next season he can probably make it happen.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will offer Irving a maximum contract extension once they’re allowed to on July 1, and if he hasn’t signed it by October, the team will likely be forced to trade him before the Oct. 31 deadline for third-year players to extend their contracts.

The Cavs aren’t without leverage. They can match any deal offered if Irving hits restricted free agency in the summer of 2015, and they control his rights through summer 2016. Waiting out that period would cost Irving millions, not to mention open himself up to losing it all should some unforeseen major injury occur. For these reasons, no player in Irving’s position has ever declined to a sign a maximum contract offer. [...]

And while Irving has said all the right things about staying put in public, it’s no secret that Irving’s camp has been making it known for years now the point guard would like to be elsewhere long term. No matter how much he denies it.

Windhorst naturally lays out all of the reasons why Irving should, with history being any indication, re-sign with the Cavaliers, including the public relations hit he would take. As the star of Pepsi MAX’s “Uncle Drew” series, damaged popularity could put a serious clamp on the spigot of endoresments.  The Cavaliers, as has been reported countless times, have the ability to match any deals Irving would receive, controlling his rights through 2016. Irving can certainly make the Cavs front office sweat a bit, allowing him to sign a mini-max extension similar to LeBron James in 2006—and we all know how this worked out long term.

“In his three seasons,” Windhorst writes, “the 21-year-old has spent a total of five days above .500, none of them coming after the second week of the season.” Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is on record saying that he would not allow his team to be held hostage by a player who was entering free agency. That said, Gilbert has also said a lot of things on record, some of which have eventually proved untrue.

Fellow ESPN writer Amin Elhassan provides a bit of supporting work for Windhorst, laying out the options for Irving, complete with several quotes from league general managers and fellow players12. Like last summer, this coming summer is the “most important” of the point guard’s young career.

These sort of things never seem to creep up during six-game winning streaks, do they?

(Image via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

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Footnotes:

  1. “He’s never been the villain, been loved everywhere he’s gone,” the player said. “Could he come out and play with that sort of animosity from his home crowd, let alone the rest of the league?” []
  2. “Kyrie is in a rarefied air. He’s not on the same plane as a regular player who is forced to accept the work environment of the team that offers him the highest bid,” said one Western Conference assistant coach. “Coaching and management can always change; he has the stature to affect that change, to influence how the organization is run.” []

The Sacramento Kings are also interested in Jarrett Jack

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The Brooklyn Nets may have some competition in the suddenly hot race to acquire Cavs guard Jarrett Jack. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the Sacramento Kings—yes, those Sacramento Kings—have expressed interest in Cleveland’s veteran shooting guard.

The Nets’ reported talks center around a Jack-for-Jason Terry swap, while it’s unclear what the Kings are offering in return for the veteran combo guard. Jack has played just 18.0 minutes per game over his last five (including a woeful, stat-free 12 minutes against the Washington Wizards on February 7) as the team has largely used CJ Miles, Dion Waiters and Matthew Dellavedova as the rotational guards alongside—and behind—Kyrie Irving.

The deal-happy Kings have already made one of the biggest trades of the season by acquiring Rudy Gay and this was in addition to dealing for former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams from the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’re rumored to be shopping shooting guard Marcus Thornton who is locked into a position battle with rookie guard Ben McLemore. The 26-year-old Thornton is due roughly $4 million for the duration of this season in addition to $8.5 million in 2014-15.

(Image via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

ESPN: Anthony Bennett still has All-Star potential

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While the rest of the world focuses on Kyrie Irving and his counterparts at the impending All-Star weekend in New Orleans, ESPN.com’s David Thorpe thinks that one of his teammates could soon join him if he plays his cards right: Anthony Bennett.

Yes, that Anthony Bennett. The same kid who, just weeks—if not days ago—was called every NBA-related pejorative in the books as he was linked to rumors and demands for NBDL playing time. Fast forward to today and Bennett was one of five Cavalier players left on the floor during a comeback attempt against the Los Angeles Lakers; he’s quietly averaged 9.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes of play over the last three games. His shooting percentage is still dreadful, but Thorpe believes that, with a multi-step process, Bennett could be one of the many players who turned a slow start into stardom—many of which are predicated upon his curreny weight.

Goal No. 1: Get in great shape

Starting right now, Bennett can significantly transform his body by the end of the season. Then he can use that as a springboard to get even slimmer in the offseason. It looks as though he can lose 30-60 pounds in the next six months, and that new body would unlock an incredible set of talents. [...] The best part for Bennett is that he has the type of body that should continue to exhibit power and force despite a significant loss of weight.

Goal No. 2: Play athletically and energetically

Bennett looks as though he can be an explosive athlete once he transforms his body. Learning to finish explosively takes time, as well, but it pays huge rewards. He has finished less than 43 percent of his shots at the rim this season, a number that can’t help but improve immensely if he could utilize a newfound athleticism at the rim.

Goal No. 3: Embrace the paint first

Watching Bennett shoot the ball during pregame warm-ups reveals one clear truth — he has a chance to be a special shooter. He has very nice form, uses good arc and has a soft touch overall. But that does not mean he should be camped out behind the 3-point line for much of the game. It’s one thing for a young guard who lacks driving skills to stick to the 3-point line, it’s another thing for a huge power forward to do so. [...] To build himself into the most potent offensive force possible, Bennett would be wise to begin and end most possessions inside. He has the size and skill to be more of a factor there, and with a new body, he’d be even more effective.

The end result? A brand new Anthony Bennett.

Thorpe states that, players as talented as Bennett, such as Lamar Odom and Rasheed Wallace, can get lost in their variety of skills. Improving day-to-day, as Bennett appears to have done over the last few weeks, is integral in the confidence needed to continue building toward what the Cavaliers thought they were obtaining when they spent that No. 1 pick this past summer. As Thorpe concludes, it’s still very early and cementing him as a “bust” may be done merely out of the necessity to categorize. “It is a mistake to wonder whether or not he can get there, but it remains fair to ask if he will get there.”

Potential names arise to fill Cavs vacant GM spot

Dan GilbertThe ink on the press release has barely dried, but the names of potential replacements for the position recently created in the wake of Chris Grant’s firing in Cleveland is starting to fill up. CBS Sports’ Ken Berger’s recently filed column includes current “acting” general manager David Griffin, but several other individuals with considerable accolades throughout the league could also garner a look.

In addition to big-name staples like former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers1 head coach Phil Jackson and former Memphis GM Chris Wallace, Berger lists former Knicks GM Glen Grunwald (credited with last yaer’s 54-win season), and former New Orleans GM Jeff Bower. Berger adds that the Cavs already have done some background checking on a current member of the Knicks’ front office, director of pro personnel Mark Hughes.

Of all of the names that may or may not raise a few eyebrows, the most intriguing may be Michael Winger, the No. 3 executive in the Oklahoma City front office. Per Berger, Winger is a “rising star” who has been groomed by Thunder GM Sam Presti, whose long-term approach to sustainable success in a small market should be (and arguably has been, despite the lack of wins) the blueprint for a team like Cleveland. Prior to joining the Thunder, Winger spent five seasons (2005-06 through 2009-10) in the front office with the Cavs. Winger’s role in Cleveland was extensive, and included instituting organizational processes and working closely with Cavaliers’ management and ownership on all team matters. He joined the Cavaliers in July of 2005 after spending two years working for renowned sports agent and attorney, Ron Shapiro in Baltimore, Maryland.

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio2, Winger is a graduate of Miami University (OH) and a licensed attorney.

“I can assure everyone who supports and cares about the Cleveland Cavaliers that we will continue to turn over every stone and explore every possible opportunity for improvement to shift the momentum of our franchise in the right direction,” said team majority owner Dan Gilbert following Grant’s firing. “There is no one in our entire organization who is satisfied with our performance, and to say that we are disappointed is an understatement.  We all know the great potential of our young talent, seasoned veterans, as well as our recent all-star addition. We believe a change in leadership was necessary to establish the best possible culture and environment for our entire team to flourish.”

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Footnotes:

  1. Irony! []
  2. Connections! []

Things that annoy me about the Cavaliers right now

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris Grant

The season from hell hath unleashed its versatile fury all over the Cleveland fan base during the past week. From last Sunday’s Suns meltdown to Saturday’s array of hoops-related excitement, these truly are dark days in Cavs world.

There are many, many things that annoy me about this Cavs franchise and its current dysfunctional state. Let’s breeze through some of the items that come to mind:

[Read more...]

Quotes in Luol Deng-based report paint ugly picture in Cleveland

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While the spotlight of speculation continues to shine brightly on the Cleveland Cavaliers, small forward Luol Deng is the subject of a column in the New York Daily News that paints an even worse picture for the scene in Independence.

As Deng recently told one close friend, “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.”

Deng was brought in to help clean it up when he arrived in a deal for Andrew Bynum on Jan. 7. But since then, he’s seen players get thrown out of practice, take off their uniform tops at halftime and threaten not to play, mouth off to Brown and generally act like spoiled brats.

There is no accountability, as Dion Waiters found out when he was kicked out of practice last week but still got his usual minutes against the Knicks. Brown isn’t getting much help from GM Chris Grant, who is expected to be fired at season’s end because of the losing and problems in the locker room. […]

Kyrie Irving is close to firing his agent, Jeff Wechsler, according to a league source. We hear part of the reason Irving is seeking a new rep is that he intends on leaving the Cavs, while Wechsler wants him to stay. As we reported at the start of the season, Irving wants to come back home to the New York area — he’s from West Orange, N.J. — and play for the Knicks. Lord knows they could use an All-Star talent at point guard, and Irving will be headed for his first starting assignment in an All-Star game in a couple of weeks.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Deng said, the wake of his trade from Chicago to Cleveland, that he was leaving one great organization for another. If these quotes are true, while not said directly to the author of the column, they show what may be going on behind the scenes. This is the first anyone has reported anything regarding players getting kicked out of practice.

Two notes worth pointing out: It was the New York Daily News that, earlier this year, attempted to discuss a path that ultimately ends with Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving ending up in a New York Knicks jersey. Also, these quotes provide a stark contrast to those which will hit Jason Lloyd’s Sunday-morning column.

“I don’t get the vibe that anyone has given up on Coach, I just think we’re not playing as a unit,” said Deng. “Cleveland is going to win. I really believe that. I’m not surprised they went to the Finals before. It’s going to happen again.”

An Open Letter to Kyrie Irving

(Editor’s note: The following is a submission from Cleveland-based writer AJ Lubetkin.)

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Dear Kyrie Irving,

I remember when I started to believe.

[Read more...]

Kyrie Irving sits down with Jason Lloyd, calls Cavs season a ‘wake-up call’

“I needed this. It was more or less a wake-up call. I got away with so much my first two years. It wasn’t a breeze, but everything came easy. This is the first year where every single night it’s going to be a challenge. That’s one of the things I’m getting used to and I’ve accepted.”

“I just feel like what people fail to realize is I don’t have all the answers all the time. I’m still the third-youngest on this team. I’m a 21-year-old kid trying to figure this whole thing out. It’s a daily job and that’s probably why it’s been one of the toughest years for me. I’m learning every single day.”

Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday– Two-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, as told to the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd on Friday night, following a week of individual drama and thorough Cleveland Cavaliers losses.

The tumultuous week practically began with last Sunday’s column from Lloyd, placing additional blame on Irving’s defense and leadership for the team’s season-long struggles. The Cavs later blew an 18-point halftime lead on Sunday night against Phoenix.

On Tuesday, the Cavs were blown out at home by New Orleans. On Thursday afternoon, ESPN’s Chad Ford dropped a quick blurb in his weekly chat that Irving was privately telling folks he wants out of Cleveland. The Cavs then lost by 31 to the Knicks on TNT later that night. Irving spoke with reporters after the game, saying “I’m happy to be in Cleveland,” but preceded that line with the fact he’s still on his rookie contract.

Prompting this latest article and as a response to Sunday’s column, Lloyd shared that Irving and him sat down after practice today. Lloyd remarked on Twitter that the conversation was good, with some comments on the record and off.

The 21-year-old point guard from Duke added to Lloyd: “this is the first year I was really challenged the entire year” and “it was a lot harder than I expected.” Head coach Mike Brown also shared some comments, saying he thinks Irving is improving despite the gigantic pressure.

[Related: Know your CBA: Kyrie Irving unlikely to leave Cleveland soon]

Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Two-way street: Cavs haven’t been happy with Kyrie either

DSC_0477As the words of Chad Ford and Kyrie Irving will be parsed and analyzed for the next six months, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reports that while the player may have the leverage (as they usually do), the Cleveland Cavaliers have not exactly been thrilled with their All-Star point guard who may or may not have privately told people close to him that he’s unhappy with his current situation.

With that contract decision coming up, there is reason to believe that Irving may try to force changes. The rules favor the Cavs in keeping him, but he is in position to dictate some of the terms. That makes it hard to predict which way this will go.

This of course cuts both ways, the Cavs haven’t exactly been thrilled with everything they have seen from Irving in recent months. He has acted very much like a 21-year-old at times. And while he may not be thrilled with Brown, the Cavs coach has to have been taken aback by Irving going through periods of ball hogging and the absence of interest in giving defensive effort at times. That sort of play from your best player can undercut any team.

Irving, as fans may recall, was the focal point of a team meeting in which he was accused of playing “buddy ball” with power forward Tristan Thompson. Irving, who is well on his way to another 20-point season, has stayed relatively healthy this season, but has taken a substantial step backward during a time when most star players make their biggest leap forward. Heading into the 2013-14 season, NBA.com surveyed the league’s general managers and asked which player they would want to start a franchise with. Three players got votes: LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But despite his All-World, future Olympian talent, the Cavaliers sit with a record of 16-30 during a season where the playoffs were not only attainable, but all but demanded from the team’s majority owner Dan Gilbert.

Two seasons ago, Gilbert said that he would no longer play games and be held hostage by a player. “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,” Gilbert said.

For the next six months, as the team cannot offer Irving a contract until July 1, the rumors will undoubtedly swirl. Reports will be made, and the player will continue to refute in the loosest of terms. In a day in age were camaraderie and mutual goals are of the utmost importance, it appears that these two parties—the Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving—are locked into a tug of war.

(Image via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Kyrie Irving: I’m happy to be in Cleveland

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Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, in the wake of rumors stating the contrary, claims that he is happy to be a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m in Cleveland. I enjoy myself. I enjoy going out and competing at the highest level for the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Irving said after the Cavs’ 117-86 loss to the New York Knicks.

On Thursday afternoon, ESPN.com’s Chad Ford reported that Irving had been privately telling people close to him that he isn’t long for Cleveland. FOX Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico later reported that Iving’s father, Dredrick, had not-so-privately made it aware that he was unhappy with how the Cavaliers had been utilizing his son’s talents.

Irving, who was voted in as a starter to next month’s All-Star Game, is averaging 21.5 points and 6.2 assists for the 16-win Cavs. He has one more season left on his contract (paying him a little over $7 million) and then would be a restricted free agent if he does not sign an extension with the Cavs before the start of the 2014-15 season. A potential contract extension—which cannot be offered until July 1—would be for five years and be worth up to 30 percent of the Cavaliers’ cap space in the event Irving is either voted to another All-Star team or is named All-NBA.

“People are €œtrying to antagonize this team and put it on me,” added Irving. “I’m here for my teammates. I’m here for Coach Brown.”

(Image via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Kyrie Irving reportedly telling people he wants out of Cleveland

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As it the case with many Chad Ford-related chats, one of the first questions out of the gate was surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time, the focus was on head coach Mike Brown and general manager Chris Grant in the wake of the team’s underwhelming first half. Buried in the middle of his response, Ford, ESPN.com’s NBA Draft analyst, says that Kyrie Irving, the team’s two-time NBA All-Star, is privately telling people that he wants out of Cleveland.

Virtually every GM in the league believes that Grant will be gone this summer if things don’t get turned around this season. He doesn’t have much time. The thinking is that there’s no way Dan Gilbert is going to let him make another lottery pick if that’s the direction the Cavs end up heading. Grant’s goal (via his owner) is to get this team competitive and into the playoffs. The Deng move was supposed to help. But so far … nothing. Chemistry is a major issue there and some of that is on Mike Brown. But more of it is on the collection of players in Cleveland at the moment. Something has to happen quick. 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.

Irving is in the third year of a four-year contract and could sign an extension this off-season. He is due $7.1 million in 2014-15 and has a qualifying offer of $9.2 million for 2015-16. Despite being under contract for at least the next two seasons, the Cavaliers will offer Irving a maximum contract extension that could keep him here beyond 2016. In 2012, in the wake of the Miami Heat winning their first title after the departure of LeBron James, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert stated that one lesson he learned is not allowing his team to fall victim to unrestricted free agency. “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 can not risk going into a summer and having them leave in unrestricted free agency and get nothing back for it,” said Gilbert.

This past October, one year following the proclamation regarding free agency, Gilbert said that he was of the belief that the team’s relationship with Irving was healthy. “It’s still a little bit early, but we feel good about Kyrie being here for his entire career,” Gilbert said.

In response to Gilbert’s sentiments, the 21-year-old point guard publically stated that he has a great relationship with the team’s owner. “It’s still too early to be talking about that stuff, especially a contract extension, and all that,” Irving said. “But we have a great relationship, me and Dan.”

It’s also worth pointing out that the Cavaliers play in Madison Square Garden on Thursday evening. Kyrie Irving is from New Jersey. These types of stories, as they did prior to 2010 with LeBron James, have an odd way of popping up every time the Cavs head to a large market.

(Image: Scott Sargent/WFNY)