CLEVELAND — As if the Cavaliers and Browns don’t have enough trouble winning games. Now their most prominent stars are going at it.
Cavs All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon spent the past few days in a media spat, exchanging barbs across TV, Twitter and newspaper.
Gordon, who led the NFL with yards receiving last season, fired the first verbal volley last week when he went on ESPN’s “First Take” and discussed Irving’s problems this season with teammate Dion Waiters.
“I talked about it with Dion,” Gordon said. “He’s my neighbor in my building so we hang out all the time. I’m aware of the rift in the locker room. That’s just alpha males and supreme athletes trying to share the spotlight.”
Irving didn’t waste any time in shooting back, telling the Akron Beacon Journal, “Guys like Josh Gordon need to stay in his sport and mind his own business. Does he still play for the Browns? I’ll continue to root for the Browns, but in terms of this stuff here, what goes on in this locker room, he needs to stay out of it.”
On Sunday, Gordon responded to Irving via social media by tweeting: “Smh. (shake my head). … i touched a nerve.”
Following Monday’s practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts, Waiters and Irving, standing side-by-side against a wall, attempted to clear up any misunderstanding. They insist they get along well.
“We’ve been friends before we even made the NBA, before any of this,” Waiters said. “I just think y’all saying we don’t like playing with one another, yeah, we still need to learn certain things. But I think at the end of the day, we’re genuinely friends. I love him as a friend, teammate, everything. I just want everybody to know that.
“I don’t hate this guy. I’m pretty sure he don’t hate me. I know he don’t hate me. I hope he don’t hate me. Rome wasn’t built in one day. We’re still young. We’re still planning to stay together. We’re still working. As long as we’ve got great communication down it’s fine.”
Irving said he has spoken to Gordon about the comments.
“I just let him know that the whole situation kind of got blown out of proportion,” Irving said. “There was no disrespect on my end to him or anything he does. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Before Saturday’s home game against Charlotte, Irving said he has grown tired of media reports saying he wants to leave Cleveland.
“The barrage and little bit of attack that I saw, I’ve been getting it all season and I feel I definitely don’t deserve it,” he said. It’s one of those things where I can deal with it, but at a certain point, it’s gotten too much. It’s been like that the whole entire season.”
Irving then went out and scored a career-high 44 points in a 96-94 overtime loss that pushed the Cavs to the edge of elimination from the playoff chase.
Irving, who recently returned from a biceps injury, said he has been unfairly scrutinized.
“It’s all nonsense to me,” he said. “That’s part of the business. I get it. It’s part of the job. To go out and frame my character to something it’s not. … I’m not an attention seeker. I don’t go out trying to put all these rumors out. For people that feel that it’s a good thing to continue to put my name in the headlines to get reads, that’s your job, but at a certain point it’s got to stop.”
Irving’s stance is the latest turbulence in what has been a bumpy season for the Cavs.
The team fired general manager Chris Grant in March, and the Cavs have been wildly inconsistent in a season in which owner Dan Gilbert had predicted would end with the first playoff appearance since 2010 — before LeBron James left.
The Cavs can offer Irving, the MVP in this year’s All-Star game, a maximum contract extension this summer. Irving has said he enjoys playing in Cleveland but has been noncommittal about whether he’ll accept the long-term deal.
Maybe Gordon knows.