CLEVELAND Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman downplayed reports of tension between superstar LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on Wednesday, but neither confirmed nor denied that Irving had sought a trade.
“These things are fluid,” Gilbert said of Irving’s situation at a press conference at the team’s Ohio training facility, Altman’s first since he was confirmed as the team’s new GM on Monday.
Numerous US media outlets have reported that Irving has requested a trade, indicating he wanted to join a team where he could emerge from James’s shadow and become the focal point of the offense.
“We think that Kyrie Irving is one of the best guards in the NBA,” Gilbert said. “He was part of a championship, three years straight to the Finals and we value his talent significantly.”
Irving played the last three NBA Finals alongside James with Cleveland, winning the title in 2016 and falling to the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and this year.
He has two seasons left on his contract and a player option for 2019.
Whatever his reason for wanting to leave, Altman — who served as assistant GM under David Griffin, who departed in June — said reports of friction between James and Irving were “overblown”.
“I think the people who are in this building every day haven’t seen any of that animosity,” Altman said. “This is, along with Kevin Love, this is a group that got us to three straight Finals and won an NBA championship together. They play great together on the floor and a lot of that I do think is overblown.”
Meanwhile, John Wall signed his US$170 million, four-year contract extension that owner Ted Leonsis said provides the Washington Wizards with long-term stability.
Team President Ernie Grunfeld announced the completion of the deal Wednesday. Wall said in a video posted on Twitter that he had agreed to the extension that begins in 2019-20 and includes a player option for 2023-24.
Wall, a four-time Eastern Conference All-Star, is the third player this summer to get a designated player “supermax” extension, joining Houston’s James Harden and Golden State’s Stephen Curry.
The Wizards now have their big three locked up. Earlier they matched a US$106.5 million, four-year offer sheet forward Otto Porter Jr signed with the Brooklyn Nets and last summer signed guard Bradley Beal to a US$128 million, five-year contract that goes through 2020-21.
Porter was temporarily Washington’s highest-paid player, but that honor now belongs to Wall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft out of Kentucky who set career highs with 23.1 points, 10.7 assists and 2.0 steals last season. Wall has averaged 18.8 points over seven NBA seasons.