There’s no doubt that the NBA off-season has held more intrigue and interest when compared to the actual season.
We’ve received another example fortifying this notion on Friday afternoon — as Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving has requested a trade away from the franchise. According to ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst, Irving intimated to the front office that he no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James. He’d rather play in a situation where he’d be the focal point of the team. James is said to be “blindsided and disappointed” by the reveal.
Irving was drafted No. 1 Overall by the Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA Draft. Throughout his six-year career, the four-time All-Star has averaged 21.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, and 1.3 SPG. He’s truly developed into one of the brightest stars in the league. At only 25 years of age, Irving will undoubtedly command plenty of interest.
ESPN Sources: On Kyrie Irving front, Cavs were given four preferred landing spots: New York, Miami, San Antonio, Minnesota.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 21, 2017
Chris Haynes reported that Irving has four teams he’d prefer to play for: New York Knicks, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The timing of this news is rather fascinating. Cleveland is still in prime position to win the Eastern Conference, and thus compete for a championship. However, Irving did voice some concern over the direction of the team recently. As told to Sports Illustrated, Irving said the franchise is “in a very peculiar place.” Sam Amico of Amico Hoops has a theory as to why Irving may be wanting out:
Irving’s father, Dredrick Irving, has often behaved negatively about his son playing alongside James, league sources told Amico Hoops — with Dredrick Irving occasionally shouting demands from the stands that his son, and not James, should be the Cavs’ No. 1 option. Kyrie Irving also admitted last season that he had issues with former Cavs coach Mike Brown back in 2013-14. According to sources, Dredrick Irving had a tendency to loudly share his disdain for Brown’s coaching of Kyrie.
There’s also the Dan Gilbert factor. It’s been widely known across the league that Gilbert isn’t the warmest — nor most capable — owner in the league. Cleveland inexplicably parted ways with respected general manager David Griffin after the Finals loss to Golden State. During Gilbert’s tenure with the franchise, he’s been known to recycle through general managers at a rather high clip.
Life is amazing. No complaints. Things are a little peculiar. But no complaints. Now go kick some rocks 🙌🏼 https://t.co/Tz62YyGeYt
— Kevin Love (@kevinlove) July 21, 2017
Cleveland struck-out when attempting to acquire the likes of Paul George or Jimmy Butler. As it currently stands, the team is a year older — and is no closer in terms of closing the gap between themselves and the Warriors.
And then…there’s LeBron. James is a free agent after this season. The media firestorm surrounding his future has been scorching at inferno-like levels. San Antonio has been rumored as a potential destination — as have the Lakers. James has a home in Los Angeles, and has many interests pertaining to the entertainment realm. Magic Johnson also hasn’t been shy about preserving the team’s cap space for when he — and others — become free agents.
This entire situation puts Cleveland in a very precarious spot. There’s virtually no scenario in which the Cavs will trade James. There’s also a general thought that Irving may have been overly emotional when making this declaration. Cleveland is hoping that he’ll reconsider on his trade request. If not, the Cavs face a real conundrum. Should they trade Irving, it will essentially signal the start of a rebuild.
After extended talks, the hiring of Koby Altman as Cleveland’s new GM is imminent, league sources tell ESPN. Altman was Cavs’ assistant GM.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 21, 2017
James will not want to stick around for that at this point in his career. However, the potential distraction of holding a disgruntled Irving on their roster might not be good for the health of the team going forward, either. From a speculation standpoint, is Irving requesting the trade with the knowledge that James will not re-sign next season? Without question, new general manager Koby Altman will have his work cut out for himself.
Cleveland head coach Ty Lue was a former guard in the NBA. Primarily a reserve, he wasn’t an overly significant player during his 11-year career. However, he began his playing days with the Los Angeles Lakers during the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal era. We all know how that ultimately turned out — as a young Kobe pushed Shaq out the door as a means to be “the man” for the first time in his young career.
In a 2016 article by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, Lue talks about the parallels between Bryant-O’Neal and James-Irving:
“It’s like it’s the same. Shaq was already established and was older than Kobe, and he was the most dominant player in the league. And Kobe was always striving to be better—to be the best player ever. That was his goal.”
This will be a wildly fascinating wrinkle to an already exhilarating NBA off-season. If things fall in a negative manner, Cleveland could go from Eastern Conference Champions to the doormat of the league in one season.
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