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NBA Rumors: Irving Commits to Cavs

Kyrie Irving denies a report that he wants to leave Cleveland as expected… Lakers want, but can’t get, Eric Bledsoe without help from the Suns… Pressure is on the Thunder to win now, or risk losing Durant.

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Check out our breakdown of the biggest rumors of the day in our NBA Rumor Round-Up. For more rumors and news, check out Basketball Insiders’ headlines, which are constantly being updated.

Kyrie Irving Verbally Commits to Cleveland

ESPN’s Chad Ford reported earlier Thursday in his weekly chat that Irving has privately told people he wants out of Cleveland.

“There’s been so much so-called reports coming out that I don’t want to be here. That’s what you guys get paid to do, but that’s just so much negative attention,” Irving said following the Cavs’ 117-86 loss to the Knicks. “I know we’re struggling, but it’s not about me. It’s about our team. It’s about us fighting every day for each other and me fighting for my teammates.

“Yes, I’m in Cleveland. I enjoy myself. I enjoy going out and competing at the highest level for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about me and it’s not about this controversy, ‘Do I privately want out when my contract is up?’ I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m not saying anything to tell the future, but I’m pretty sure the relationship I have with Dan Gilbert and management extends off the court. I enjoy being here.”

Via Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com

Ford is one of the best in the business and as credible as they come. However, he had to know that his comments, which were in response to a question during his annual chat, were going to get denied like this by Irving immediately.

Irving can come out and say that he is happy in Cleveland every day for the next year, but until his name is on a contract extension, rumors, report and speculation saying otherwise will continue to surround him. That’s the nature of the business when you’re a star in a small market without a long-term contract in place; it also doesn’t help matters that the Cavaliers are struggling mightily.

The only certain thing that can be reported without a refute soon to follow is that Irving’s future with the Cavaliers has yet to be decided. He’s under contract through next season and they have the ability to issue a qualifying offer after that and make him a restricted free agent. They’ll also have his Bird rights, giving them the ability to not only match any offer he receives, but also offer him more than anyone else can. If Irving is really set on leaving Cleveland, he’s going to have to leave money on the table and get them to oblige.

There’s far too much to still play out before we know exactly how this is going to end. Right now nothing can be ruled out, one way or the other. If Irving rejects a contract extension in July with the intent to explore free agency that could force the Cavaliers’ hand, but only if they’re willing to trade him with little leverage to bargain with.

Lakers Like Bledsoe

The Los Angeles Lakers might pursue Eric Bledsoe in restricted free agency this offseason. The Lakers would presumably have to overpay for the Phoenix Suns not to match.

Via Chris Broussard of ESPN

The Lakers are going to be one of the bigger players in free agency this summer and while Bledsoe very well could be someone they want to acquire, his restricted status almost makes him harder to obtain than LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement limits what they can offer, and based on the way that Bledsoe has performed as a starter, they’re not going to be able to make an offer that the Suns would view as “overpaying”. They’re a young team with tons of cap space and financial flexibility. There’s nothing prohibiting them from giving Bledsoe the max contract that he has proven to be worthy of.

Sure, their second best player Goran Dragic happens to play the same position as him and has a bargain of a contract, but Bledsoe is a guy worth building around and making the face of your franchise. The two have proven that they can play together, and Dragic’s stock is hotter than ever right now. He could easily be packaged up with one of the multiple first round picks for a favorable deal, should Suns general manager Ryan McDonough see fit.

It’s as simple as this: the only way Bledsoe is going anywhere is if the Suns let him. While things can always change, there’s just no reason why they would right now.

Nets Want Durant, but who Doesn’t?

On Friday , the Nets will chase Kevin Durant around the Barclays Center court, hoping to contain the NBA’s most dynamic scorer. And some two years from now, they likely will be joining the crucial chase for his signature on a contract.

The impending Durant free agency bonanza should start picking up steam next season and will undoubtedly engulf the NBA in the summer of 2016. And make no mistake: the Nets are targeting Durant, the 25-year-old offensive juggernaut, even if it’s too early to predict their odds.

The Nets could be committed to no salary when Durant becomes a free agent, depending on whether Deron Williams picks up his one-year option for the 2016-17 season. Everybody else is off the books.

Via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News

Of the three rumors in today’s report, this of course is the most interesting because Durant’s free agency in 2016 could be even bigger than LeBron James’ in 2010. Unfortunately, as Bondy pointed out, it’s too early to start talking about odds or favorites.

Here’s what we do know: Big market teams will let no stone go unturned in their pursuit of Durant. There’s too much time between now and his free agency to tell who is all going to be going after his services, but there isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t do everything they could to make a run at the most ideal franchise player to come around since Tim Duncan.

The pressure is on the Thunder to win in the next three years. If their management and ownership doesn’t have the mindset that they are going to lose Durant if they don’t win a championship before then, they’re setting themselves up to watch him play for someone else the rest of his career. Durant deserves to play for a team willing to spend whatever it takes to win a championship, even if it means going into the luxury tax to get the players they need – something the Thunder are not willing to do. If he doesn’t get a ring in Oklahoma City before becoming a free agent, he has every reason to question whether he ever will there. And, the slight possibility of signing him will be enough for most teams to try and move mountains to get him.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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