It may have been the worst “welcome to your new job” present ever — 24 hours after Koby Altman landed a dream job and was named the new general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers (replacing the respected David Griffin), news broke that All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving demanded a trade.
In a fantastic feature on Altman at ESPN by Dave McMenamin, Altman said the Cavs considered forcing Irving to stay (remember, he wasn’t a pending free agent with leverage). That’s what coach Tryonn Lue wanted.
His coach, Tyronn Lue, advised they hold onto Irving, just like the Los Angeles Lakers did when Lue’s former teammate Bryant demanded a trade.
“We wanted to figure out, is this real?” Altman says. “Is Kyrie someone we might want to bring back and say, ‘Hey, look, players have figured it out in the past. You’re going to figure it out. We’re going to still be really good, we’re going to be winning games, so it’s not going to be all awful.’ You know what I mean? So thinking about the parameters of that, the implications of that was something we were also always debating.”
As you know, eventually Altman determined they needed to move on from Irving and struck an unexpected deal with the Celtics, landing Cleveland Isaiah Thomas (who makes his debut tonight following a hip injury), Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick unprotected (as of this writing that would be the No. 10 pick in the draft, lower than anticipated). While Irving has been fantastic in Boston, fitting in well with coach Brad Steven’s system, the book is out on how this trade works for the Cavaliers — they will be judged on playoff performance, not what happened in November and December. More importantly, does this trade make it more likely LeBron stays rather than bolts as a free agent next summer? We don’t know the answer to that question, either.
Altman had a fascinating path to one of the 30 most coveted front office jobs in the NBA — selling real estate, coaching in Division III, and more. He’s grounded, with a good perspective on the challenges ahead of him (a better big-picture perspective than team owner Dan Gilbert, I would say). Read the profile, it is worth your time.