Report: Kyrie first requested trade before draft, wanted to play with Butler

The basketball world was rocked Friday by reports that Kyrie Irving had requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a meeting last week, apparently leaving Irving's teammate LeBron James – like most people – "blindsided" by the news.

However, the franchise may have known for some time that its starting point guard wants to go to somewhere he can feature more prominently on offense. The 25-year-old star first asked to be traded ahead of June's draft, hoping he'd be sent to the Chicago Bulls to team up with fellow All-Star Jimmy Butler, a league source told TNT's David Aldridge.

It was previously reported that before the Cavaliers parted ways with general manager David Griffin, the executive had been working on a three-team swap that would’ve brought Butler to Cleveland.

Looking back, that could've been an attempt to appease Irving and give the club a better chance of retaining its core – at least James and Irving – but now it's possible Griffin won't be the only person moving on from the organization.

Related: Irving’s exit would kick-start Cavs’ downfall

Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft day, so it's likely no coincidence that Irving reportedly listed the T-Wolves as one of four preferred destinations.

Related: Which of Kyrie’s 4 reported teams of interest is the best fit?

The two bonded as teammates on Team USA, winning gold in Rio last summer. Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns are both reportedly recruiting Irving and pushing management to swing a deal for the 2016 NBA champ.

Minnesota signed free agent Jeff Teague this offseason to run the point, but Irving is far more talented and accomplished. The four-time All-Star averaged a career-high 25.2 points on 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 40.1 percent from long range to go along with 5.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per contest last season.

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NBA | theScore

Watch: Dodgers organist plays Linkin Park’s ‘Numb’ before game

With Linkin Park fans mourning the death of front man Chester Bennington, musician Dieter Ruehle memorialized the lead singer by playing “Numb” on the organ during the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ pregame batting practice.

Adding another layer, the Dodgers' starting pitcher for Thursday's game against the Atlanta Braves, Brandon McCarthy, walked out to the band's 2003 hit from the album "Meteora."

Bennington died Thursday morning at the age of 41.

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MLB | theScore

Busy start: 5 more moves Panthers’ Hurney should make before Week 1

It didn’t take long for Carolina Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney to get to work in his new position.

One day after being re-hired to the Panthers' front office, Hurney negotiated a four-year contract extension for guard Trai Turner and cut ties with offensive tackle Michael Oher.

Serving as Carolina's GM from 2002 to 2012, Hurney seems comfortable pulling the trigger on important decisions. With that in mind, here are five more moves for Hurney to make before the 2017 season gets underway.

Extend Davis, Olsen

Hurney doesn't need to give veterans Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen megadeals like the ones that ultimately got him fired in 2012, but the two longtime Panthers are central to the team's culture and shouldn't be lost.

Related – Report: Panthers prioritizing Davis extension; no talks with Olsen

Davis, a 34-year-old former Walter Payton Man of the Year, is coming off his fifth consecutive 100-tackle season, while Olsen, 32, became the first tight end to notch three straight 1,000-yard campaigns. Even if their skills decline, both will be heavily depended on as locker room leaders who Hurney doesn't want to make enemies out of.

Reach out to Smith, Williams, Beason

One thing was clear after the Panthers fired Dave Gettleman on Monday: he pissed off a lot of the franchise’s best players.

Steve Smith, the franchise's all-time leading receiver, DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers' all-time leading rusher, and Jon Beason, a former All-Pro and fan favorite, all expressed disdain for Gettleman after his dismissal.

These players are important pieces of the franchise's history who all have a voice within the fan base. Hurney was the GM who drafted each of them, so he should have built enough of a relationship to welcome them back to the fold.

Sign Boldin

Something has been missing from the Panthers' offense since Gettleman dismissed Smith, who had filled the role of tough, veteran receiver. Anquan Boldin can provide that presence.

The 36-year-old wants to return for at least one more season and has scheduled a visit, though he won't disclose with whom. Boldin brings physicality, toughness, and the veteran leadership that few can provide with a Super Bowl championship, Man of the Year award, and seven 1,000-yard seasons. He may not be Smith, but he's as close to a replacement as Hurney will find.

Replace Oher with Clady

It sounds as if Oher's career could be over after dealing with concussion problems since November. While he wasn't an elite blocker in Carolina, the Panthers do not have a strong offensive line and every loss matters.

Ryan Clady, a 30-year-old four-time Pro Bowl tackle, is hands down the best blocker on the free-agent market, and should be willing to take a team-friendly deal at this point in the offseason. He may or may not be able to beat out Daryl Williams or Matt Kalil for one of the team's starting tackle jobs, but with the importance placed on keeping Cam Newton healthy and upright, he's a risk worth taking.

Trade Lotulelei for picks

While some have pointed to the success the Panthers had under Gettleman as reason to keep him in place, the former GM did little in the way of creating depth.

The Panthers are one of the most top-heavy teams in the NFL with plenty of position groups that still need help. One unit that has a few extra pieces is the defensive line.

Former 14th overall pick Star Lotulelei is entering the final year of his contract, but he hasn't quite lived up to expectations, and the Panthers already gave fellow defensive tackle Kawann Short a big extension this offseason. Their first-rounder from 2016, Vernon Butler, is currently slotted to be a backup but has the talent to start.

Lotulelei should be able to garner several draft picks in a trade that could help the future of the club, and if they aren't planning to extend him, a move before the season would bring the best return.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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NFL | theScore

Report: George nearly given OK to call Cavs owner before Thunder trade

How close were the Indiana Pacers to trading former franchise star Paul George to the Cleveland Cavaliers? They reportedly nearly gave George permission to call Cavs owner Dan Gilbert directly.

“It was so close in fact that Indiana was about to give permission to Paul George to get on the phone with Dan Gilbert,” reported ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “Indiana backed out of it and did the Oklahoma City deal.”

George was ultimately traded to the Thunder on July 6 in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

A call between George and Gilbert would have likely been one of the final benchmarks needed before the Cavaliers could sign off on any blockbuster deal. Any team surrendering significant pieces would have sought some sort of clarification about the possibility of the four-time All-Star re-signing long term.

George has two years remaining on his current deal, including a player option for 2018-19 that is likely to be declined.

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NBA | theScore

Report: Cousins unlikely to sign before deadline, open to deal after season

Kirk Cousins is not expected to sign a long-term deal with the Washington Redskins before Monday’s deadline for franchise-tagged players, but is open to a deal after the season, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Due to earn $ 23.94 million this season after being franchise tagged for a second straight year, Cousins is loaded with leverage and has a good shot at becoming the NFL's highest-paid player when he eventually signs his next contract.

The two sides have never appeared likely to reach a deal before Monday's deadline, but Schefter's report should help squash the rumor that Cousins wants out of Washington and has no intention of ever signing a long-term deal with the team.

Tagging Cousins for a third straight season would cost the Redskins an untenable figure in the range of $ 34.5 million fully guaranteed, so it’s likely the situation will come to a conclusion (either via a long-term deal or Cousins being traded) early next offseason.

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NFL | theScore

Watch: CP3 tosses picture-perfect 1st pitch before Astros game

It appears Chris Paul can handle more than just a basketball.

The newly acquired Houston Rockets point guard stepped to the mound at Minute Maid Park before the Astros hosted the Minnesota Twins on Friday and delivered a pretty accurate first pitch down the pipe prior to the game's start.

Paul, a nine-time NBA All-Star, will join James Harden and Co. in their pursuit of the franchise's first championship since 1995.

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NBA | theScore