As the clock struck midnight and the calendar turned from June to July, the Cavaliers entered into arguably one of the most important months in franchise history. Though this offseason has yet to consist of any major roster changes, David Griffin and the rest of the front office staff of the Cleveland Cavaliers have pushed the organization in the right direction in June by taking perhaps the most explosive young player available in the 2014 NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins. As I wrote in my prior article grading the Cavaliers draft, this was a HUGE win for the Cavs. Though there were many offers on the table for the first pick, the Cavaliers resisted all temptations and added a very valuable piece toward the process of building a contender without giving up any assets in doing so.
As July progresses, all Cleveland fans know what looms ahead. However, before the Cavalier front office entered the fray of an incredible free agent class, they had other priorities… and rightfully so. Today, the Cavaliers locked up the franchise’s future when Kyrie signed his maximum contract extension which will pay him $90 million over the course of 5 years.
Kyrie Irving has been perhaps the brightest spot on a disappointing Cavs team over the past few seasons. For his career, Kyrie is averaging just short of 21 points and 6 assists per game, highly respectable numbers for an NBA point guard who is only 22 years old, with just 3 years of experience. Aside from that, Kyrie has shown the ability to make big plays in pressure situations.
For every positive claim about the former Duke standout, there has been a negative criticism, however. In 2013-2014, Kyrie’s numbers were down from the progress he showed in 2012-2013. His shooting percentage has dropped in both seasons following his rookie campaign. At times, he struggled on the defensive end of the floor. He still has yet to go a full season without significant injury. Amid reports of dysfunction in the locker room, Kyrie often was in the center of the so-called “conflict.” Many questioned Kyrie’s leadership skills and his will to win in Cleveland, and as a result, reports leaked that Kyrie was unhappy in Cleveland and was looking forward to becoming a free agent in the summer of 2015 so that he could bolt for a better team and a bigger market. Many feared that the rebuilding that took place while Kyrie grew would go for nothing and that the organization would be forced to start over after he left. It would have been really easy for Kyrie to make an effort to leave. He certainly would have had plenty excuses to do so.
But he stayed.
Kyrie’s willingness to stay in Cleveland long-term lends me to believe that he is ready to make his next step as a player. It takes a certain type of person to go through the trials Kyrie has faced as a Cavalier–coaching changes, losing seasons, and constant media scrutiny–and remain in that environment to prove people wrong and finish what was started. That in itself is reason enough for me to place my trust in Kyrie leading the team going forward. I have always been a strong supporter of Kyrie Irving, and this only re-affirms those feelings.
Additionally, by staying in Cleveland, the organization is assured that it will not be “starting over” or “rebuilding” any time soon. Kyrie’s extension says “The rebuilding is done. It’s time to win now.” Going forward, it also makes Cleveland, which struggles to attract big-name free agents, more competitive in the free agent market. With players like Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins on the roster for many years to come, talented players will be more inclined to come to Cleveland, whereas the instability the organization has shown over the past seasons would have been enough to take Cleveland completely out of the running for any player with legitimate championship aspirations.
Stability is key in the NBA. Players and fans tirelessly seek it. Thanks to Kyrie, the Cavaliers now have it.
All for one, one for all. Kyrie’s all in. Are you?
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