INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert spent more than 30 minutes presenting a positive portrait of his franchise.
The reality is that the Cavs are troubled.
In his first public comments since Kyrie Irving asked to be traded, Gilbert would not confirm whether he’ll honor the All-Star point guard’s request, but he also didn’t rule out the real possibility that Cleveland may deal its second best player – or if he thinks LeBron James will stay around beyond next season.
“These things are fluid,” Gilbert said. “We think that Kyrie Irving is one of the best guards in the NBA. He was part of a championship, three years straight to the Finals and we value his talent – significantly.”
Despite several direct questions about Irving’s status, Gilbert would not provide any specifics about recent conversations with him or his agent. Gilbert said he expected the 25-year-old, whose jumper in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals propelled Cleveland to its first championship since the Browns in 1964, to be at training camp with the team in September.
“Right now Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year,” Gilbert said. “As of now he’s one of our best players and sure, we expect him to be in camp.”
Gilbert was clearly attempting to avoid making things worse for the Cavs or doing any further damage to the club’s relationship with Irving, who has blossomed into the one of the league’s best backcourt players.
While Irving may want out, the Cavs aren’t obligated to move him and new general manager Koby Altman said Irving remains an important piece for a team that has been to three straight Finals.
“He’s a core piece of what we’ve done,” said Altman, who was promoted to full-time GM after filling in when David Griffin left earlier this summer. “Kyrie is a tremendous player. He has made great contributions to this franchise and we enjoy him as a player. We’re going to keep this stuff in house in terms of what was said in those meetings, but he continues to be a core piece of who we are and what we do.”
It’s been turbulent summer for the Cavs, who were beaten in five games by Golden State in the Finals. The bumpy ride began with Griffin parting ways with the club over philosophical differences with Gilbert, who was then rebuffed in adding former Pistons guard Chauncey Billups to his front office.
And while numerous teams got stronger via free agency, Cleveland was hamstrung financially by salary-cap issues.
Then, the Irving trade demand was a cannonball in Gilbert’s basketball pool.
“Well, how is your guys’ summer going?” Gilbert quipped in a light-hearted moment.