On Saturday night, for the second time in less than nine months, a young fan made his way from the stands at Quicken Loans Arena onto the basketball court during live game action to personally deliver a message, hand-scrawled on a white T-shirt, imploring an NBA star to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And with security like this, what star wouldn't?
It took place with just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter of the Cavs' Saturday night game with the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. After rebounding a missed 3-pointer by Jared Dudley, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving pushed the ball up the court and passed to center Andrew Bynum in the post. As Bynum worked for a shot against the defense of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, the young fan stepped onto the floor, walked past half-court toward Irving, tapped him on the shoulder, and then got in his field of vision and showed off a T-shirt reading, "KYRIE DON'T LEAVE."
After Bynum's shot missed, Jordan flipped the rebound to Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who began dribbling up the court with the fan directly to his right. Paul crossed half-court, picked up his dribble and stared as referee Gary Zielinski and a security guard collected the young fan. Several other guards quickly, but not that quickly, joined the fray to escort the fan off the court; the Cavaliers' public relations team later confirmed that Cleveland police had taken the unidentified fan, who is a minor, into custody by Cleveland police and that charges are pending, according to Jodie Valade of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"I was a little scared but it happened," Irving said after the game, according to The Associated Press. "I was running back in transition, trying to get my man. I was like, 'Who is this guy?' I was surprised, but security handled it."
“It was a prideful Cleveland fan," he added, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. "I love them.”
You'd suspect, though, that he wouldn't mind loving them from afar — or, at least, a bit further away than close enough to tap him on the shoulder on the court during a game.
As I said, this is the second time in less than nine months that such an incident has happened during a Cavs game at the Q. Back in March, the message was directed at former Cavaliers star LeBron James, whose contract with the Miami Heat has an early termination option after this season that could make him a free agent. James reportedly might have an interest in returning to Cleveland; the Cavs (and just about everybody else) reportedly might have interest in bringing him back; many Cavaliers fans would like to see that happen.
One such fan, James Blair, took an aggressive approach to letting LeBron know how he felt when the Heat came to town in March town to play the Cavs, making a zealous grasp for his 15 minutes of fame by bursting onto the court in the middle of the game. Blair, too, was hustled off the court by security, but not before tapping LeBron on the back of his arm, showing him a T-shirt reading “We Miss You” on the front and “2014 Come Back” on the back. James rewarded Blair's boldness with a high-five, a Twitter response/follow and even a post-NBA Finals salute during the Heat's championship celebration. Blair's name popped up again amid Saturday night's antics, but he clarified that the Kyrie-seeker wasn't him; it couldn't have been, you see, because he is "banned [from Quicken Loans Arena] homie." (And rightly so.)
Whereas Blair's outreach sought a future reunion, Saturday's interruption was aimed at convincing Kyrie not to bolt at his earliest opportunity ... which, it should be noted, isn't for another two-plus years.
Irving is in the third year of the rookie contract he signed after the Cavs selected him No. 1 overall in the 2011 NBA draft. The Cavaliers exercised a contract option in October that will keep the 21-year-old point guard on the team through the end of the 2014-15 season. This coming summer, after the end of the current season, Irving will be eligible for a contract extension that can last as long as five extra years, and the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year and 2012-13 All-Star will likely seek the maximum salary allowable under the collective bargaining agreement.
If Irving and the Cavs can't come to terms on that max extension by Nov. 1, 2014, Irving would become a restricted free-agent following the '14-'15 season, giving Cleveland the option of matching any offer sheet tendered to their point guard. Irving can't enter unrestricted free agency until the summer of 2016, and getting there would mean A) no early agreement on a long-term extension with the Cavs, B) no agreements on RFA sheets from other teams and C) accepting a one-year qualifying offer for '15-'16 from the Cavs that would allow him to enter the summer '16 market unfettered. There's really no precedent for that kind of move; teams typically look to lock up their max-level guys as soon as humanly possible, and no player offered a max extension of his rookie contract has ever (to our knowledge) said no. Then again, those players didn't ply their trade in home arenas in which fans can apparently just run onto the court whenever they feel like it, so maybe the historical record doesn't apply here.
There's an awful lot of bad here — bad behavior by this fan, bad work by the Cavs' security team, bad lingering thoughts that at some point the court-rushers might not have such warm intentions, the continuation of the bad precedent set by LeBron's response that puts Irving in the position of having to say he loves a "prideful" fan so willing to endanger himself and others, etc. This kind of thing can't keep happening; for the safety of everyone involved, the Cavaliers, and their fans, must do better.
Cleveland beat L.A. 88-82. Irving had 20 points, six assists and three rebounds.
Video via @cjzero.
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