Kyrie Irving threatened to undergo knee surgery and miss the entire 2017-18 season if the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t grant his trade request this past summer, fraying his relationship with the franchise to the point of no repair, according to an anonymously sourced report from Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon.
When the Cavaliers acquiesced and dealt Irving to the rival Boston Celtics in August, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported that “Irving let it be known that he would rather not report to training camp than begin another season with Cleveland,” but Vardon’s report reflects a far more dire situation.
Additionally, Vardon reported that Irving — currently an All-Star starter and MVP candidate enjoying the most efficient season of his career for the first-place Celtics — still requires minor knee surgery, that Cavaliers superstar LeBron James preferred the front office call Irving’s bluff and that the four-time NBA MVP “has made it no secret in recent weeks that he felt Irving shouldn’t have been traded.”
This all comes on the heels of a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggesting, “What’s really pissing LeBron off is that he felt like the Cavs could have gotten Paul George and Eric Bledsoe” in June, when former Cleveland GM David Griffin was pursuing a three-team deal that would have cost them Irving.
So, within a 24-hour span, we’ve been told through a pair of anonymously sourced reports that James wanted Irving gone if it meant he would be playing alongside George and Bledsoe right now and that he wanted Irving to stay rather than play with the return Cleveland got from Boston instead — Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick and a future second-rounder.
There are many ways to read into this round of reports. Here are two, and we’re spitballing here:
1) The Cavaliers are broken. Their coach is complaining about personal agendas. Their players are pushing for roster changes. They’re calling team meetings to point fingers at each other. Kevin Love is caught in the crossfire. There’s a division between the team’s old guard and new guard. It’s a mess.
Somebody, whether it’s LeBron’s camp or the front office or anybody else in Cleveland, wants us to know: Hey, this isn’t all our fault. This is on Kyrie, man. Let me just say I find the fact that we’re now being informed LeBron adamantly opposed trading Kyrie awfully interesting, especially since we have been told for five months now that he made no public or private effort to repair the relationship back then.
2) The groundwork for LeBron’s exit is being laid. He is a free agent at the end of this season. Clearly, he is not happy with the current state of affairs, and if indeed he “has made it no secret” that Thomas and Crowder aren’t his preferred playing partners, the in-fighting and drama is only going to increase.
There is no fix in Cleveland. The players LeBron pushed for Cleveland to trade for and/or re-sign to exorbitant contracts — Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver — are eating up two-thirds of the salary cap for two more years, and the solution they’re currently working on is George Hill. That’s not enough. The Cavaliers needed Irving. You know it. I know. LeBron knows it.
By swinging public opinion toward the team’s struggles falling on the front office and Irving, it’ll be a whole lot easier for LeBron to wipe his hands clean of this mess and say, “See what they made me do.”
That’s my take, at least. Of course, it could all be coincidence that we’re finding out amid all the other drama the Cavaliers are experiencing that LeBron wanted every other option but the one he’s got now.
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