August 20, 2014

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UPDATED: Kyrie Irving agrees to max deal with Cavaliers; five-year extension good through 2019-2020 season

 Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving

CLEVELAND — Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will continue to be the face of the franchise.

The two-time All-Star agreed to a five-year contract extension worth at least $90 million early Tuesday morning, keeping him in Cleveland through the 2019-2020 season.

Irving celebrated the news by waking up his former Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick High teammate, Dexter Strickland, and dancing in his room. Strickland promptly posted an Instagram video of the scene, then deleted it because it was meant to be a private moment among friends.

“I’m here for the long haul Cleveland and I’m ecstatic!” Irving said on his Twitter account. “Super excited and blessed to be here and a part of something special.”

Because Irving’s new pact doesn’t take effect until next summer, the Cavaliers could wind up paying him more than $100 million over the life of the deal.
All max-level contracts are valued at 25 percent of the NBA salary cap for their initial season, but are raised to 30 percent — via the so-called Derrick Rose Rule — if a player is voted an All-Star Game starter twice in his first four years.

Irving earned his initial starting nod at the 2014 showcase in New Orleans, where he also claimed All-Star Game MVP honors with 31 points and 14 assists. The 22-year-old Duke product has career averages of 20.7 points and 5.8 assists in 181 games since Cleveland made him the No. 1 overall choice in the 2011 NBA Draft.

“Looking forward to the next six years of Kyrie Irving in Cleveland,” Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said in announcing the agreement with a 1:48 a.m. tweet.
“Just shook hands and intend to sign on the 10th. Can’t be more excited about Cavs.”

Gilbert, general manager David Griffin, coach David Blatt and assistant coach Tyronn Lue were part of the traveling party that greeted Irving in his home state of New Jersey.

Their meeting occurred mere minutes after the NBA free agency period began Tuesday at midnight, which also opened the negotiating window for three-year veterans to be offered extensions. Contracts cannot be officially signed until July 10.

Jeff Wechsler, who is Irving’s agent, told Yahoo Sports that Blatt and Lue “were incredibly impressive. That’s what helped sell Kyrie on taking this deal.”
Irving’s rookie-scale contract has one season remaining at $7.4 million, but the new pact eliminates the 2015-2016 option year that could have allowed him to enter restricted free agency.

Since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976, Irving is one of just 10 players to average 20 points and five assists over their first three seasons. The others are LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, Isiah Thomas, Tim Hardaway Sr., Grant Hill, Allen Iverson, and Rose.

After locking up their star, the Cavaliers entered the acquisition phase of free agency with more than $15 million of cap room available. Irving’s new contract will not be placed on Cleveland’s financial ledger until 2015.

While four-time NBA MVP James is obviously atop the Cavaliers’ wish list, they reportedly contacted Lakers center Pau Gasol and Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza, who would fill their two biggest positional needs.

Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward and Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons — both restricted free agents — are also known to be coveted by Cleveland’s front office. Reports out of Detroit indicate that Pistons power forward Greg Monroe, another RFA, could receive an offer sheet from the Cavaliers.

With Irving and rookie swingman Andrew Wiggins under Cleveland’s control for at least the next five years, the franchise has two attractive assets to build around.

The opening day of free agency also saw the Cavaliers’ three unrestricted free agents take steps toward finding new teams.

Center Spencer Hawes spoke with the Trail Blazers and Warriors, small forward Luol Deng is engaged in a mutual courtship with the Heat, and shooting guard C.J. Miles had dinner with Pacers executives.

Cleveland is interested in retaining Hawes and Miles, who would be fine fits for Blatt’s offensive system, but will not overpay for their services.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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