To a list of achievements that includes becoming an NBA All-Star, NBA champion and gold medal Olympian, Kyrie Irving can add this:
He invented a new statistic.
The triple-double take.
Irving believes the Earth is flat. He doesn’t want to play with LeBron James. He does want to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
If you are a Wolves fan, you can celebrate the ascension of the franchise from bus depot to destination. If you’re not a Wolves fan, you’re wondering whether Irving requires a drug test or concussion protocol.
Irving listing the Wolves as one of the four teams for which he would like to play is as meaningful a compliment as Tom Thibodeau, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler could receive.
Irving is a 25-year-old star and proven winner who was at his best when he and James made the Cleveland Cavaliers champions two years ago. His interest in the Wolves is a cause for celebration, but is it a call to action?
The Wolves would have to trade Andrew Wiggins in a deal for Irving. Irving, Butler and Towns would give the Wolves stars at point guard, wing and post. They would represent the best threesome ever to play for the franchise.
But adding Irving isn’t that simple. Adding a player is rarely that simple in the NBA, unless you’re the Golden State Warriors and your buddy Kevin Durant wants to sign up.
For the sake of argument, let’s pretend the deal would be a simple one — Wiggins for Irving.
Irving would have two years remaining on his contract, like Butler. The Wolves would have to make a run toward the top of the NBA in a short period of time, while Towns is still improving. Irving’s arrival would stamp an expiration date on the franchise’s best hopes, and that expiration date would likely arrive while the Warriors remain unbeatable.
Then there is the X-factor, which in the NBA is short for “extrovert factor.”
The Wolves have employed two points guards in almost three decades who were capable of elevating the entire franchise. Both were also capable of destroying it.
The first was Stephon Marbury, who blew up their best plans because he didn’t want to share the ball or bucks with Kevin Garnett.
The second was Sam Cassell, who led the Wolves to the Western Conference finals before his silly celebration dance caused an injury that ended the best season in franchise history.
Then Cassell, like Marbury, blew up the Wolves’ plans, pouting so much the next season that Flip Saunders got fired and the franchise entered its period of playoff dormancy that extends to today.
Trade for Irving, and you lose Wiggins, who appears primed to sign a long-term deal with the Wolves, and you add a player whose personality is even more explosive than his crossover.
The latest indication that Irving will force his way out of Cleveland is a video of Steph Curry, at a wedding, mocking James. Irving is in the group, laughing.
Stick with Wiggins and you remain the most promising young team in the NBA, and may remain so for years.
Trade for Irving, and you are at the mercy of another moody point guard.
Then there is the question of roster balance. Would you rather have a starting five of Irving, Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Towns? Or Teague, Butler, Wiggins, Gibson and Towns?
The latter is better defensively, more balanced and should have more longevity.
The former has Kyrie Irving playing point guard. Which is enticing.
The Timberwolves have finished higher than third in their division exactly once in franchise history. Selling out for a 25-year-old champion who would have the ball on every possession would be understandable.
I say, if you’ve waited 14 years for a winner, you can afford to wait another. Keep Wiggins. Keep the window of opportunity wide open. And as a bonus, keep all of those Minnesota schoolbooks that suggest that the earth is round.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org