November 23, 2014

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Cavs’ Irving excited about LeBron’s return, new deal

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving

INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving doesn’t travel with a posse. Nor does he have marketing advisors eager to see him play in a larger market.

Yet, that didn’t stop local sports talkers and out-of-town reporters from accusing him of both last season.

Irving admitted Saturday that the rumors did bother him because they were patently untrue.

“All the speculation and the BS that was out there, I’m glad I put it to rest,” the two-time NBA All-Star said at his annual youth basketball camp. “Being able to sign my new contract here, it was a huge monkey off my back.

“I wanted to show the Cavs my commitment to the team, and they wanted to show me their commitment to the future. The rest is history.”

Though Irving still has one season left on his rookie contract with Cleveland, he signed a five-year, $90.7 million extension July 10.

The max-level pact includes a player option for the 2019-20 season — along with a 15 percent bonus if he is traded — and will balloon to $108.8 million if he is elected to the Eastern Conference All-Star starting lineup for the second year in a row.

“It was very exciting, and I’m glad we got it done right away,” said Irving, who began negotiating with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert mere minutes after he became eligible for an extension at 12:01 a.m. on July 1.

“We had dinner (in his home state of New Jersey) and talked about our goals together, then Dan and I shook hands on the deal. We both left the table so we could tweet it out because we wanted to tell the world how excited we were.”

Irving became much more excited July 11, when four-time NBA MVP LeBron James announced that he was returning to Cleveland after spending four years with the Miami Heat.

The three-year veteran said he had no idea “The Chosen One” would be joining him on the Cavs until he read his first-person piece on the Sports Illustrated website.

“You have to empathize with the guy because it was such a heartfelt essay,” Irving said. “I think we all felt his emotions and how sincere he was about the city.

“Obviously, I’m excited about LeBron being back. It’s been fun playing with him in (two) All-Star Games, but this will take things to another level, being around him every day.”

Irving made a quick visit to Northeast Ohio to oversee his two-day event at Independence High School, which will wrap up this afternoon. He spent most of the week in Las Vegas, cheering on Cleveland’s team in the NBA Summer League.

While in Sin City, Irving sat down for lunch with new Cavs coach David Blatt. They previously talked basketball several times in late June, but this conversation was much more personal.

“Coach Blatt seems like a genuine person, and that’s what you want for your team,” Irving said. “He cares about me becoming the best point guard I can be, but he’ll also let me be myself and just go out there and play.”

First, though, Irving has a return trip scheduled to Las Vegas to attend the USA National Team workouts from July 27-Aug. 1. He is one of 19 players battling for 12 spots on the FIBA World Cup squad that will compete in Spain from Aug. 30-Sept. 14.

Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love is also on the roster, but Irving declined to talk about Cleveland general manager David Griffin’s efforts to trade for the second-team All-NBA selection.

“This whole free-agency period has been a whirlwind with so many rumors,” the 22-year-old Duke product said. “I haven’t considered it, and I’m not going to unless I get a call from our GM. But just like you guys, I’m going to be anxious to see what David Griffin does.”

Irving said he briefly spoke with James to welcome him to the team, but didn’t want to take any more of his time, explaining, “Right now, LeBron is focused on his family. It’s time to enjoy the offseason, but it is going to be a pleasure to learn from
him.”

The education of Irving is slated to begin Oct. 1, when the Cavs open training camp. Their nationally televised regular season opener will take place on Oct. 28 or 29, while the NBA playoffs begin in mid-April.

“It’s an exciting time for downtown Cleveland, but I’m not going to make any predictions,” Irving said. “It’s definitely going to be an exciting few years for all of us.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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