Cleveland acquiesced Irving’s trade request, anyway, sending him to the Celtics.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com on 92.3 The Fan Cleveland:
Let’s be honest: LeBron didn’t do anything, until they were going to trade him, to try to keep him here. He didn’t try to talk to him. He didn’t try to mend the fences. It wasn’t until they said, “LeBron, we’re giving him to Boston” is when he said, “No, no don’t do that.”
When it came out, there was a month – a whole month – before anybody had any idea that the trade was going to be to Boston. LeBron didn’t do anything. There was no love lost between them.
On one hand, it’s not necessarily LeBron’s responsibility to ensure all his coworkers are happy with their employer. The Cavaliers should have had a general manager for that.
On the other – let’s say, right – hand, LeBron reduced his chances of winning a legacy-boosting title last season. Even though he clearly never felt a responsibility to do the Cavs’ bidding for them, his reluctance to reach out to Irving hurt LeBron himself.
LeBron left Cleveland in a nearly impossible position. If the Cavaliers traded Irving against LeBron’s wishes, LeBron – approaching free agency – would have held it against them. (That became even more true considering the Cavs’ return for Irving flopped.) If the Cavaliers kept Irving and he underwent season-ending surgery – as he threatened – LeBron probably still would have held his worsened situation against the team.
That wouldn’t have been fair, but LeBron held the power. He didn’t have to be fair.
And he didn’t have to use his position to court Irving.
Their relationship was clearly broken, years of mistrust culminating in Irving’s trade request. I can understand if LeBron felt too proud to beg Irving to stay. And, again, that didn’t have to be LeBron’s responsibility.
But it could have been, and his unwillingness to accept that extra burden put the Cavs in a horrible spot. We can appreciate that without laying all the blame on LeBron.
I don’t believe Irving’s relationship with Cleveland was irreparable when he requested a trade last summer. But it would have taken a huge effort – including by LeBron – to salvage it. It’s clear LeBron wasn’t interested in doing that beyond the cursory effort of telling the Cavaliers not to trade Irving.