CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers didn’t wait. They announced Kyrie Irving’s contract extension the moment they were allowed.
While the team, Cleveland’s fans and most of the NBA anxiously awaited a decision from LeBron James about where the free agent megastar will play next, Irving signed his new five-year, $90 million contract extension, a deal which will keep him in a wine-and-gold uniform until 2020.
The Cavs reached an agreement with Irving on the extension in the first hours after free agency opened last week. They weren’t permitted to confirm the deal publicly until Thursday, when the league’s moratorium ended.
The move to extend Irving continued what has been a memorable summer. The team hired new coach David Blatt, selected forward Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall draft pick and then locked up Irving.
On Wednesday, they traded three players: guard Jarrett Jack, center Tyler Zeller and swingman Sergey Karasev to open salary-cap space so they can offer James a maximum contract.
“We are excited that Kyrie has officially committed to be here long-term with the Cleveland Cavaliers,” owner Dan Gilbert said in a release. “The future has never been brighter as we are building the team and franchise for sustainable success. Kyrie is obviously a very big piece of our plan.”
Irving averaged 20.8 points, 6.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds in 71 games last season, his third with Cleveland. The former No. 1 overall pick was also voted MVP of the NBA’s All-Star game.
Gilbert made Irving the club’s top offseason priority. The Cavs hoped in getting him signed to a long-term deal it would make them more appealing to James, who appears to have narrowed his choices to re-signing with Miami or return to Cleveland, where he played his first seven seasons as a pro.
Chosen first in 2011, one season after James left, Irving has averaged 20.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.4 steals in 181 games. He’s been somewhat injury prone, but the 22-year-old played in 71 games last season.
The one thing missing from Irving’s pro resume is a playoff appearance, but the Cavs believe with a young nucleus of players — and maybe James — Cleveland can contend again in the Eastern Conference.
Before he committed to the Cavs on the extension, Irving had sent out mixed signals last season about his desire to stay in Cleveland. But he’s been fully engaged in their plans and has reportedly made his own personal pitch to bring James back.
“We couldn’t be happier to have Kyrie firmly at the core of our Cavaliers team and family for years to come,” general manager David Griffin said.
“He’s already proven he’s among the best in the NBA and we’re excited to watch his continued growth and success. To know that he is all in and shares our high expectations and championship goals is something we’re extremely proud of.
“It is a clear reflection of how we all view our future together, with Kyrie fully vested in this franchise and the city of Cleveland.”
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