When the NBA free agency period kicked off on July 1st, the front office of the Cleveland Cavaliers made news immediately, even though they didn’t add a player.
Instead, they kept one of their own, signing Kyrie Irving to a five-year contract extension which will keep him in the wine and gold through the 2019-20 season. No shorter deal like the one inked by LeBron James following his rookie contract.
Thus ends the speculation that Irving was not happy in Cleveland and wanted out as soon as possible.
We believe Irving wasn’t happy during the last season, and his disenchantment had every thing to do with the lack of respect he had for his coach, Mike Brown. The hiring of David Griffin as general manager and David Blatt as coach changed the two-time all-star’s mind. He now has a good feeling for the future of the franchise.
We have said this before, when coaches don’t play the right people, or design plays that do not work, the players lose confidence in them. To be sure, the total focus on defense in training camp which limited the offense early in the year did not sit well with Irving, and we suspect other players as well.
Remember, Irving played at Duke, coached by the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, who has won three national championships while there and is also the coach of the US National team, piloting two gold medal squads at the Olympics.
In short, he’s one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the sport.
Imagine what the point guard thought when he saw Brown’s simplistic offense with little or no movement and totally designed on Irving’s (or someone else’s) ability to take his defender off the dribble.
You get the picture.
Remember when there were reports shortly after Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland regarding how Deng couldn’t believe the mess here. Deng played for Krzyzewski at Duke and then was coached by Tom Thibidoux in Chicago, two excellent coaches.
This is not to denigrate Brown, who by all accounts is a great guy and has paid his dues in the sport, but he’s not cut out to be a head coach in the NBA, and probably will not get a chance to be a head coach in the association again.
And this criticism of Brown doesn’t excuse the poor roster construction put together by former GM Chris Grant.
His roster was a collection of guards who like to have the ball in their hands (Irving, Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack) and players more suited to play power forward in the NBA (Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Earl Clark).
And he seemed reluctant to deal with strength, trading one of those players to fill obvious needs at small forward, shooting guard, and center.
From Irving’s point of view, he now sees a GM willing to make moves to improve the roster. He sees Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick, who can play the #2 or the #3, and is an athletic freak, a guy who can run the floor with him.
He sees a coach who has won everywhere he’s been, and has a feel for both ends of the floor.
He sees a plan for this franchise going forward and he saw a chance for success.
That’s the reason for his change of heart and the reason he will wear the wine and gold for a long time.