The Runner Sports

Kyrie Irving: San Antonio Spur?

Just when it seemed like the NBA was going to shrink and die until the season began, Kyrie Irving started talking. Irving isn’t happy in Cleveland; that much is clear. First, he said the situation there was ‘peculiar.’ Now he wants to be traded. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst says ‘demands’ to be traded is too strong a word. But when you’re a star of Irving’s caliber, you can demand a trade without demanding anything at all. This is just the latest development in what Bill Simmons calls the ‘shook up snow globe’ that is the Warriors’ NBA.

Uncle Drew’s top potential destinations are Minnesota, Miami, San Antonio, and New York. But will he actually end up any of these places by the start of next season?

Let’s begin by tossing Minnesota out the window immediately for multiple reasons. First of all, the Timberwolves’ payroll for 2017-18 is already $9 million over the salary cap with the addition of Jimmy Butler’s $19 million, Jeff Teague’s $19 million, Taj Gibson’s $14 million, and the perpetuation of Gorgui Dieng’s abominable $14 million a year contract. Jeff Teague alone will be more expensive next season than Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns combined. If someone can explain that one, I’m all ears.

The team salary cap next season is only $99 million. If the Timberwolves aren’t careful from here on out, the luxury tax, teetering dangerously at just $113 million, could make itself quite comfortable in Minnesota next year.

Miami is a joke too, mostly because of the Dion Waiters re-signing. Kyrie has said he wants to leave Cleveland to have his own team. Good luck (re)joining forces with Dion Waiters and convincing Waiters to share the ball. He worked hard last season for the extension, and there’s no way Cleveland reclaims their lost draft bust in Dion Waiters with Kyrie on his way out the door.

So what about New York? Fahgettaboutit. You sign Tim Hardaway Jr. for three years/$71 million, you gotta lie in the bed you’ve made. They’re even closer to brushing up against the luxury tax than Minnesota next year. Maybe a Carmelo Anthony trade could happen, and truthfully, the Cavaliers should look into Melo’s intention of waiving his no trade clause because it could potentially be a way for them not to come away completely empty-handed. It could also finally be the inception to a long-awaited Banana Boat team. But the Knicks currently only have about $2 million of cap space. True, an Irving/Porzingis foundation could be exciting. But the main problem with New York is that more than Kyrie wants to have his own team, he wants to win.

Enter San Antonio. Right now, the Spurs have one thing that none of these other teams do; cap space. Most likely they are saving it and planning for the long-term, but Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol, and presumably Manu Ginobili will be taking pay cuts this season for the good of the Spurs’ success. Newcomers Joffrey Lauvergne and Brandon Paul will be cheap as well, signed to tw0-way contracts that help preserve the payroll and provide them time to develop in Austin as G-League projects.  Without considering these two low-level contracts, the Spurs’ entire payroll amounts to just under $83 million for 2017-18, and that’s including LaMarcus Aldridge’s cumbersome contract. There have been all sorts of trade scenarios tossed around, many including the Suns. Lots of insiders think Phoenix might be a solid landing spot for Kyrie.

ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh is quick to remind the basketball world that with Kyrie on the court and LeBron James on the bench last season, the Cavs were an abysmal -120 in 635 minutes. But when you drop 42 points in a Finals game, it must feel like anything is possible. I’m sure it gets into your head as you start thinking you want/need a franchise all to your own. Even after the 2016 championship, some of Kyrie’s press conference quotes indicated a possible future inclination to leave, or at least a separatist state of mind in relation to co-star LeBron James.

Kyrie already has a solid relationship with Gregg Popovich from Team USA. In fact, he loves Pop. Granted, Kyrie’s arrival in San Antonio wouldn’t solve the defensive issues Tony Parker poses against possibly the greatest shooter in history in Steph Curry. Actually, Kyrie is like a hyper-video game version of Tony Parker. Tony’s done well for himself in San Antonio; Kyrie could set himself up with a successful team, a fully-functioning system, and perhaps the best working coach in basketball. Even if the rumors are true, and Kyrie wants to win with his very own team, San Antonio is the place for him. He could get LaMarcus involved on the pick-and-roll, and at that point, the only other concern is Kawhi Leonard. It’s a good thing that perhaps the best trait of Kawhi Leonard is that if you threw him on a team with just him and four Kobe Bryants, he’d still never complain about touches, because he’s Tim Duncan in a smaller, more muscular body, in both demeanor and teammate compassion. My guess is, Irving might even take a pay cut to join forces with the Western Conference runner-up, as he always seems to lick his chops for a chance to matchup head-to-head with Steph Curry.

Will Kyrie Irving be in a Spurs jersey next season? Probably not.

Should he call Popovich and see what’s up? Yes.

Popovich should pick up the phone, too… and after trading Team USA pleasantries, he should cut to the chase and ask Kyrie for a price-tag.

Justin Heller
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Justin Heller

NBA Spurs Lead Writer at The Runner Sports
NBA guy. Manu apologist. Tim Duncan clergyman. Van Exel admirer. Embiid fan club. Players Tribune articles can never be bad. The three most important letters in the NBA are g-i-f.
Grew up all over, ended up in San Antonio, where I live currently. Come enjoy the churros with me, Chuck.
Justin Heller
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