By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: Owner Dan Gilbert believes the Cavaliers have the right pieces to keep Kyrie Irving in Cleveland for his entire career.
Gilbert, speaking prior to the Cavs’ season opener against the Brooklyn Nets, said the organization isn’t at the point of holding those discussions. The Cavs control Irving through the 2015-16 season, but he is eligible to sign an extension next summer.
“We feel good about Kyrie being here for his entire career. We think we set up an environment and a culture that’s conducive to him being not only an All-Star, but the leader of a championship-contending team,” Gilbert said. “We’ll keep going until we get to that point, whether it’s this year or next year or whenever that may be.”
Gilbert is also encouraged because of the way new coach Mike Brown and Irving hit it off this summer.
“We have a good relationship with him,” Gilbert said of Irving. “The head coach, him and Mike Brown really kicked it off this summer; they really jelled. I’m looking forward to it.”
Asked if Irving is ready for the leadership role, Gilbert said, “I think there’s been a lot of growth in Kyrie, even over the summer in talking to [General Manager] Chris [Grant], I spent some time with him, just talking to him and hearing people around him, it seems that way.
“He’s still very, very young. Believe it or not, Kyrie Irving is 21 years old. It’s hard to imagine all these guys are just 21. The age of our team compared to where we could be this year is really encouraging when you look at how young these guys are and the core that’s built.”
In an anonymous poll of general managers by NBA.com, Irving came in third as the player they would most like to start a franchise with.
“When you have experts give that kind of confidence, it makes you feel really good,” Gilbert said. “He’s a special player. I don’t even think we’ve seen near the upside where Kyrie Irving could be. I think Mike Brown is going to really be helpful to him.
“Mike and him working together, that head coach, your leader-superstar relationship is absolutely critical in building a championship NBA team. I think seeing Kyrie on the other side of the floor excel to add to his offensive skills is going to be critical for that kind of thing to happen, or to be at least categorized as a player you want to build a franchise around.
“We feel very fortunate and we’re lucky the lottery ball fell a couple years ago. A very, very critical part of our franchise evolution.”
It’s a long-standing tradition that rookies are expected to bring Krispy Kreme doughnuts to all morning shootarounds. But the Cavs’ rookies forgot the doughnuts prior to the second preseason game, so they were forced to pay their penance before Wednesday’s opener.
Jarrett Jack took them to a men’s clothing store in Tower City and found the most garish suits in the store. The rookies were forced to wear them to the arena, but they were allowed to wear their own clothes home. And in the case of Carrick Felix and Sergey Karasev, who were inactive, that was a big deal. Neither player had to wear the bright red and purple suits (with matching fedoras) on the bench during the game.
“It was cool. They were good sports about it,” Jack said. “None of them thought they were above and beyond it. I had to do something like that when I was a rookie. It’s nothing this league hasn’t seen before. They were graceful. They actually came together and said they were going to all walk in together. I thought that was kind of cool.”
The rookies got off easy compared to last year’s crop. Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller and Kevin Jones were forced to carry pink backpacks and push babies in strollers for most of the season at the demand of former coach Byron Scott.
“I’m not into the whole rookie hazing thing,” Jack said. “But you can’t forget them the second time.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.