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Report: LeBron James asked Cavaliers not to trade Kyrie Irving, but Irving threatened to undergo season-ending knee surgery

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Kyrie Irving‘s trade request last summer reportedly blindsided LeBron James. The quickly emerging narrative that Irving wanted to leave because of LeBron surely didn’t diffuse tension. It reached the point LeBron was reportedly eager for the Cavaliers to trade Irving.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

But, according to multiple sources, James ultimately asked the Cavs’ front office not to trade Irving after the request was made known, promising to bridge the apparent gap with him.

According to sources, Irving needs minor knee surgery as a follow to the procedure he underwent during the 2015 Finals to repair his broken knee cap.

According to multiple sources, Irving threatened to sit out the season and have surgery on his knee, convincing Gilbert and Cleveland’s front office that the relationship with Irving was not salvageable.

The Cavs chose to move Irving rather than call his bluff, which upset James, sources said.

Irving pulled a Mo Williams! Using surgery to secure a desired career outcome is straight out of the playbook of Williams, who returned to the Cavs as part of LeBron’s circle.

It’s so poetic.

What’s far messier is the implicit finger-pointing – yes, more of that – and ass-covering in this report. The agendas at play are thinly veiled.

The Cavaliers look like they’ve lost the Irving trade so far. Isaiah Thomas has been hurt and looks plenty rusty. Jae Crowder is having the worst year of his career. The Nets, whose first-round pick Cleveland acquired from the Celtics, are overachieving.

Nobody wants to take the blame for this mess.

Cavs brass, from owner Dan Gilbert to general manager Koby Altman, sure doesn’t. If Irving is portrayed as a less valuable asset, the return he fetched won’t look quite as underwhelming. The Cavaliers say they were backed fully into a corner with an injured player, and if everyone buys it, maybe they can swing the narrative about Thomas being the only damaged goods in the trade. Perhaps, Irving is on the verge of breaking down – though he’s playing pretty darn well in Boston. It’s a tough sell.

LeBron has the benefit of hindsight. Even if he soured on the trade with foresight, his frustration is lingering because of the results. If he were wrong and the trade looked like a victory for Cleveland, he would quickly forgive the Cavs for not honoring his request to keep Irving. LeBron also has the luxury of nobody knowing the counterfactual. Reality has gone poorly for the Cavaliers. Perhaps, keeping Irving would have gone even worse, with him sitting out the entire season and lowering his trade value while providing no help in Cleveland’s bid to beat the Warriors.

But it matters only so much what blame levied by LeBron is fair. He can become a free agent next summer, and in many ways, his perception matters more than reality. If he were upset with the Cavs defying his request not to trade Irving, why would he be any less upset with the team now that he’s seen how it’s playing out?

Nets once thought they were trading for No. 2 overall pick, would have gotten Bulls’ second first-rounder

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A Wizards-Suns-Grizzlies trade just fell apart because the teams confused which Brooks was involved. Phoenix thought it was getting Dillon Brooks. Memphis thought it was sending MarShon Brooks.

But this isn’t the first time wires got crossed in trade discussions.

Former Nets executive Bobby Marks of ESPN:

The closest it’s ever happened – and this is a funny story – is that in 2006, we thought we getting the second overall pick in the draft from Chicago. And we were going to pick LaMarcus Aldridge. And it wound up being that Chicago was offering us their second first-round pick in the draft, which was pick 16. It turned into Rodney Carney. So, that’s the closest that we’ve ever come to backing out or a deal was agreed upon and going from there.

The Bulls might as well have sent the No. 2 to pick to the Nets. On draft night, Chicago dealt No. 2 pick LaMarcus Aldridge to the Trail Blazers for No. 4 pick Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa. The Bulls got more value from No. 16 pick Rodney Carney, trading up with the 76ers for No. 13 pick Thabo Sefolosha, who was a helpful role player in Chicago then flipped for a pick that became Taj Gibson. In that 2006 draft, the Nets picked Marcus Williams No. 22 and Josh Boone No. 23.

The big difference between this non-deal and the Brooks mishap: It didn’t reach the point active players were informed and details were leaked to the media. That’s harder to walk back and maybe part of the reason the Suns and Wizards still swapped Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers after the Grizzlies pulled out.

Report: Trevor Ariza ‘checked out mentally’ with Suns

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Why did Trevor Ariza leave the Rockets, who came as close as anyone to beating the Kevin Durant-boosted Warriors in the playoffs, for the lowly Suns?

Money.

Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million contract with Phoenix last summer. That salary likely far surpasses what Ariza could have gotten elsewhere – especially Houston, where the Rockets are wary of the luxury tax.

Predictably, a veteran signing with bad team for a quick paycheck turned out poorly. The Suns traded Ariza to the Wizards essentially as soon as he became eligible to be dealt.

Duane Rankin of azcentral:

According to league sources, this was a “mutual” decision between Ariza and the Suns.

Ariza checked out mentally early in the season, according to sources. After practices would ended, he’d leave before everyone else, when that’s usually an opportunity to bond.

He’d break from the team huddle before his teammates and wasn’t engaged.

Signing Ariza to that contract was always part of a bad plan. He didn’t put the Suns over the top, and that money could have gone to a player with a future in Phoenix.

Sure, it would have been nice for Ariza to lead and mentor more. He could have served as a better example for the young Suns.

But it’s not easy to go from the peak of competition to a quickly lost season. Ariza’s misery was predictable and understandable.

It spread to the court, too. He’s having arguably the worst season of his career.

Washington hopes Ariza will play better there. He’s better cast as a glue guy on a good team.

However, it’s unclear whether Ariza will actually be rejuvenated by the Wizards, who’ve been stuck in their own turmoil. There’s also risk Ariza, 33, has declined due to age in ways that won’t simply reverse in a better environment.

At least he ends his depressing Phoenix chapter. This will be the lasting scene of his time there. Gina Mizell of The Athletic:

Devin Booker calls out Enes Kanter’s defense after Suns beat Knicks

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In a Knicks’ win over the Suns last January, Enes Kanter irritated Devin Booker into pushing him. The Phoenix guard got ejected then had to deal with Kanter’s online trash-talking afterward.

So, this retweet – following the Suns’ win over New York last night – was nearly a year in the making.

Booker:

There are two possible responses here. I’m not sure which is correct.

1. Booker shouldn’t criticize anyone else’s defense before looking in the mirror.

2. Kanter’s defense is so bad, even Booker is mocking it.

James Harden on double-stepback uncalled travel: ‘What do you want me to say? Tell on myself?’ (video)

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James Harden is difficult enough to defend when officiated correctly.

When he can get away with this? There’s nearly no stopping him. That was a big uncalled travel in the Rockets’ win over the Jazz last night.

Harden, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“What do you want me to say? Tell on myself?” Harden said.

Fair.

Unlike that call.