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To ESPN’s Elhassan, Suns not making Irving deal was about his contract

LISTEN: Amin Elhassan, ESPN NBA front office insider

At the end of the day, the Phoenix Suns didn’t budge by making a trade for Kyrie Irving.

The Boston Celtics dealing an Isaiah Thomas-centered package to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Irving Tuesday ended speculation that the Suns were a viable landing spot for the point guard. A key to the Celtics’ willingness to trade so much was the belief that Irving would re-sign beyond the two years remaining on his current contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

That made Boston’s president Danny Ainge accept trading away an All-Star point guard, an underpaid two-way player in Jae Crowder, an unprotected 2018 first-round pick that should land in the top-5 and prospect Ante Zizic.

Assuming no such assurances through were presented to Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, maybe any potential deal involving the Suns was dead then and there. At least, that’s if you ask ESPN’s Amin Elhassan, who joined the Doug and Wolf show Wednesday on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.

After Irving requested a trade from Cleveland, the Cavs reportedly desired Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson and a first-round pick for Irving, but Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported that Phoenix refused to include Jackson in such a trade.

“That’s the part of the story that’s very interesting to me. It makes a lot more sense that (the Suns) didn’t want to budge on a Kyrie deal where Kyrie didn’t want to commit to anything longer than his current contract — that makes sense to me,” Elhassan said.

“The holding onto Josh Jackson because ‘oh my God, this is the find of the century,’ that part never really made sense to me other than in the concept of, I’m going to give up Josh Jackson and Kyrie might walk after two seasons.”

Another report later on from 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson added that the Suns were willing to present another deal to Cleveland where they would instead part with Dragan Bender in place of Jackson.

From the reports, it appeared Josh Jackson was off the table in trade discussions.

Looking at it from the Cavaliers’ point of view, maybe Jackson was considered an immediate contributor, a necessary part of the trade to help LeBron James chase a title in 2017-18, his final year under contract. Maybe the Cavs didn’t see Bender helping them this year.

But to Elhassan, the Jackson-versus-Bender inclusion could have been less of an issue from the Suns’ perspective than the various reports indicate. At least, that debate was tied to Irving’s contract situation.

Irving possibly leaving Phoenix in free agency two years down the road could have stopped a deal with the Cavaliers from happening, if Elhassan, a former Suns front office member, was in charge.

“This is the NBA, gentlemen,” Elhassan told Doug and Wolf. “It’s a sliding scale. ‘You want to give up Josh Jackson? No. What if you give up Josh Jackson and Kyrie will stay for four years? Well then, Josh Jackson, I’ll pack your bags.’

“That’s kind of the balancing act you have to play. Now, for some teams, it’s worth it.”

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