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NBA AM: Will Kyrie Irving Extend In Cleveland?

Cavs guard Kyrie Irving may be sidelined for the balance of the season making his future the prime question surrounding the Cavaliers… The Milwaukee Bucks may have a buyer… Andrew Bynum underwent an MRI yesterday.

Steve Kyler



The Washington Wizards are keeping Drew Gooden for the balance of the season. He talked with Basketball Insiders about why he picked the Wizards and what he’s learned about the team since joining them a few weeks ago.

Kyrie Won’t Pass On The Extension:  There is no doubting that Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving has been unhappy with how his career with the Cavs has played out. Like most young players who get drafted number one overall, Irving knew he’d have some work to do to get his team out of the gutter and into the playoffs, but how it’s gone in Cleveland so far has been frustrating and he hasn’t always done the best job hiding that, which has led to a lot of speculation about his future  there.

Irving injured his left bicep on Sunday and is expected to miss a considerable amount of time, possibly the balance of the season, which now puts Irving’s future center stage on the Cavs’ to-do-list. Irving is eligible for a contract extension this summer and while the Cavs are surely going to park a maximum contract offer on his door step the question becomes will he accept it?

The short answer is yes.

Irving is eligible for what’s technically called the Early Bird Extension, a caveat in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows the Cavaliers a window this summer to get a rookie-scale extension done. The Cavs can also make Irving their designated player, meaning they can offer a five-year extension. Combined with his final contract year Irving is looking at the possibility of locking in the next six years of his career and roughly $93 million in guaranteed cash.

There is a belief among fans that Irving would pass on his extension in an effort to force his way out of Cleveland, when in reality one is not necessarily connected to the other.

Passing on the extension surely sends a message to the Cavaliers, but it does not in any way make an exit likely because of how the restricted free agency process works. While the Cavs can give Irving an extension this summer, next summer (July 2015) is when he actually can listen to offers from other teams, however with a qualifying offer from the Cavs, Irving can be made a restricted free agent and the Cavs can match any contract offer he receives. The only way Irving can get free of Cleveland on his own is to accept the qualifying offer in 2015 and hit unrestricted free agency in 2016.

»In Related: The 2014 NBA Free Agents .

The risks involved with that scenario are massive, so much so that no player in the modern era has done it because there is simply no reason to go to those extremes.

Irving can still play the “I want out card” regardless of whether he signs an extension. He can still “demand a trade” even if he accepts a maximum contract this summer. Irving would lose a marginal amount of power in the equation, but in all honesty because of how the free agency rules work, he doesn’t have any real power until July of 2016. Accepting and securing his future is not exclusive to getting what he may ultimately want as a player.

Irving has said many times he simply wants to win. The Cavaliers share the same goals and desires and it will be on them this summer to prove to Irving that they are ready to put a winner around him in Cleveland. However, that’s not going to preclude Irving  from securing his future.

Players don’t leave money on the table, and with $93 million reason to sign as quickly as he can, Irving isn’t going to pass on an extension.

»In Related: The Cleveland Cavaliers Salary Cap.

The question is how much flexibility is built into that extension and will the Cavaliers offer any option years in the deal.

That’s going to be where things get interesting.

» It’s time to fill out your bracket and Basketball Insiders has you covered with detailed game-by-game capsules featuring all the details on every game. Before you lock in your picks, make sure to do your homework and we have the cliff notes ready for you.

You Can’t Have Them:  Moving the Milwaukee Bucks out of Milwaukee might be good for the NBA’s bottom line – the Bucks earn a league low $109 million in revenue according to Forbes Magazine’s most recent NBA franchise valuation list. They rank dead last in recorded home game attendance at 13,253 per home games this season. But, majority owner Herb Kolh has turned away potential buyers that have called with interest in moving the team.

»In Related: Breaking Down The 2014 NCAA Tournament Field.

Kolh made it clear earlier this season that he would be looking to take on additional partners in the Bucks franchise and that has led to many potential buyers calling and offering him huge sums of money for the franchise with the intent to move the Bucks out of Milwaukee as soon as their lease with the BMO Harris Bradley Center expires in 2017.

Kolh has turned those suitors away, focusing on investors that want to commit to keeping the team in Milwaukee.

Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times is reporting that Kolh could be closing in on a deal, and that he may no longer have a controlling interest in the team on the other side of that transaction. Kolh is expected to remain on in a much smaller minority capacity after the deal and new ownership could be in place in Milwaukee as soon as the end of the season.

Earlier this month new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver downplayed the idea that Seattle was the only city actively trying to lure in a NBA team, mentioning Kansas City, Las Vegas and for the first time publicly San Diego as possible cities looking to acquire an NBA team.

Kohl has been adamant that keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee would be a requirement in a sale. It will be interesting to see how that plays out with new ownership if they can not secure a new arena in Milwaukee after they have closed a transaction.

Bynum Getting An MRI:  You had to know it was coming. You had to know that as much prep work and rehab as Pacer center Andrew Bynum has done to get healthy and ready to contribute that eventually his body would eventually push back.

Bynum underwent an MRI on his swollen knee yesterday and his status going forward is still very much up in the air according to Pacers head coach Frank Vogel.

“This is what we signed up for,” Vogel said to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “We knew he was a great player with some problem-area knees, (who was) going to be in some times and out some times. We’re fully aware of that and we’ll be excited whenever we have him in uniform.”

The Pacers signed Bynum to a one-year deal worth $1 million after he was waived by the Chicago Bulls.

The Pacers immediately put Bynum on a conditioning and rehab program and hoped to get him ready for the post-season.

»In Related: Is Anthony Davis Becoming The Next Superstar In The NBA?

Bynum saw his first game action as a Pacer on Tuesday March 11, and sat out the following game due to soreness. Bynum logged 20 game minutes on Saturday and posted a 15 point, nine rebound game and has been sidelined ever since.

The Pacers are being very cautious with Bynum, hoping that a good treatment and conditioning program can get him healthy enough to contribute, however an MRI a week after logging his first minutes isn’t necessarily a good sign.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.




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NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson

Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.

Ben Nadeau



Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?

Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.

“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”

Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.

While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.

Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.

“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”

Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.

“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.

Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.

Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.

“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”

When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.

And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.

“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”

One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.

“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”

And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.

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Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?

Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.

Shane Rhodes



The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.

With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.

It couldn’t get worse, could it?

Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.

In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.

The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.

Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.

The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.

Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.

Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?

If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.

Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.

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NBA Daily: Houston Has It All

Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.

Lang Greene



It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.

So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.

As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.

Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.

One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.

Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.

Floor Generalship

Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.

This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.

Small Ball Ready

Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.

At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.


When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.

Shooting, Versatility and Experience

All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.

Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.


Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.

With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.

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