And who can blame them?
But I know the concept of getting (Irving) out of Cleveland has been very real since early in his second season. I also know there are those within the Cavs who question whether or not he’s worth a max deal. Add it all up and … anything is possible this summer. Anything.
And given his injury history, if you truly don’t believe he’s worthy of the max, I think it’s dangerous to sign him to a max. Now if you think he’s worth it, that’s entirely different. But plenty of people in this organization have their doubts.
In a year when Irving was supposed to take the next step toward superstardom and lead the Cavs to the playoffs in the process, the point guard regressed. Per Basketball-Reference.com, he posted the worst field-goal and three-point percentages of his career, saw his PER slide below the figure he amassed in each of his first two seasons and continued his streak of apathetic defense.
Toss in the rudderless locker room Irving should have been guiding, and you've got plenty of reasons to question his worthiness as a max player.
After a season like that—both from the team as a whole and from Irving—it's easy to see why Cleveland might be approaching this situation carefully.
Consider, too, that once a max offer like the one Irving is due gets extended, it's rarely declined.
At the end of this season, Irving will be eligible for a maximum Early Bird extension. Since at least 2003, no star has turned down a max-money Early Bird extension. Not LeBron, not Chris Paul, not Carmelo, not Kevin Love. None of them. If Kyrie did it, he'd be the first.
If Cleveland really is wary of committing huge dollars to a player who hasn't improved and whose attitude seems to have only gotten worse, it could float the so-called "mini-max" extension in lieu of the conventional one. The dollars would be the same, but Irving would have the option to terminate the deal after its third year, giving him an out if his dissatisfaction continues to hamper his play.
As trial runs go, three more years would be a pretty long one. But perhaps such an approach would benefit both parties, each of whom is apparently lukewarm on the longest of long-term commitments.
The fact that it now seems like Irving would be lucky to get a max extension says a lot about how much his stock has slipped.
There's definitely some irony here, as it doesn't seem like Irving wants to remain a Cavalier any longer than he has to, but he would at least like the option to decline a multiyear extension—if only because such a power move would validate his position as one of the league's best players.
But Cleveland's reported hesitation means he may not even get that chance now.