10:14pm: According to Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer, Irving emphatically shot down reports that he wants to leave Cleveland. Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com and Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter links) relayed some of his post game quotes on the matter, but you can read a more complete transcript of Irving’s interview with reporters tonight from Schmitt’s piece:
“There’s been so much so-called reports, ‘I don’t want to be here…That’s what you guys get paid to do.’I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here…And I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here for a long time…Yes, I’m in Cleveland. I enjoy myself. I enjoy going out there and competing at the highest level for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about me and it’s not about this controversy surrounding do I want to privately come out when my contract is up. I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m not saying anything to foretell the future, but I’m pretty sure the relationship I have with Dan Gilbert and management extends off the court and I enjoy being here.”
Irving also curbed a question about signing a max-extension this summer and vouched for Mike Brown:
“It’s still too early to (say anything about an extension). I’m still trying to get through this season…Everybody is trying to antagonize this team and put it on me. I’m here for my teammates, I’m here for Coach Brown.”
1:10pm: Kyrie Irving has been confiding in those close to him that he wants to leave Cleveland, according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, who reveals the news amid a chat with readers. The pressure’s on Chris Grant, as nearly every other NBA decision-maker believes the Cleveland GM will be out of a job this summer if the team can’t reverse its fortunes this season, Ford writes.
Irving will be up for an extension to his rookie scale contract this summer, and if he doesn’t sign one, he’ll become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015. The Cavs wield all the leverage if they’re willing to sign him for the maximum, since they’d have the ability to match offers that summer. If Irving is determined to leave Cleveland as soon as possible, he could sign a qualifying offer from the Cavs that summer, and that would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Signing the qualifying offer, worth nearly $9.2MM, would be a drastic step, since he would be sacrificing anywhere from $4-7MM that season if he turned down a maximum salary contract to do so.
Irving and agent Jeff Wechsler could also agitate for a trade, although the decision to deal him away would still rest with the Cavs front office. Ford expects Grant to be heavily involved in talks at the trade deadline in an effort to swing deals for players who can provide Irving with immediate help on the court. Cleveland is in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three games back of the final playoff spot.