The partial season with Andrew Bynum was a comedy routine. Re-firing coach Mike Brown for old time’s sake was a move that crystalized the image of a franchise tripping over itself. And Luol Deng went from a major trade acquisition to a possible free-agent loss.
But the Cavaliers have apparently avoided the biggest disaster of all: They are keeping Kyrie Irving.
When Irving announced on Twitter just after free agency opened at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday that he had reached an agreement on a five-year max extension at an estimated $90 million, Cleveland had its future again.
In that moment, after a meeting with team officials and coaches in Irving’s home state of New Jersey, the Cavaliers all but officially locked up a point guard who could reach All-Star levels into the next decade, moved the perception of a badly listing organization farther into the background, and had the first major strike in the league.
These are the Cavs learning what a winning streak feels like again. Jump from the eighth-best odds in the lottery to No. 1, head into the search for Brown’s replacement with the intent of landing an up-and-comer who could grow with team and land the respected David Blatt, bask in the excitement of selecting the electric Andrew Wiggins with the top draft pick last Thursday, and now this.
While nothing can become official until the league-wide moratorium on signing contracts ends July 10, Irving and owner Dan Gilbert both announced the agreement following the meeting in New Jersey.
“I’m here for the long haul Cleveland!!! and I’m ecstatic!!” Irving declared on Twitter. “Super excited and blessed to be here and apart of something special.#ClevelandKID”
“Looking forward to the next 6 years of @KyrieIrving in CLE,” Gilbert tweeted. “Just shook hands &intend to sign on the 10th.Cant be more excited about @cavs…”
While the uncertainty of how — or if – Dion Waiters fits next to Irving in the back court still needs to be addressed, ending speculation about Irving’s future is a huge victory for the Cavaliers. So much as tabling extension talks would have been perceived as Cleveland on the brink of losing its latest NBA star, not long after LeBron James bolted, and created waves of distractions in 2014-15. But that ended Tuesday in New Jersey, with the kind of speed that became a statement all its own.