Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers last year, reportedly due to issues with LeBron James. LeBron made no effort to win over Irving, and LeBron’s late appeal to the Cavs to keep Irving went unfulfilled, as they sent him to the Celtics.
But multiple sources have told The Athletic in the past year that Irving’s issues stemmed from no longer wanting to play alongside James and not wanting to be stuck with a roster built for James after he departed.
“That’s not my problem. If that’s the case, that’s definitely not my problem,” James told me late Wednesday. “I never felt like I didn’t want to play with him. The only thing I tried to do is give him whatever I could and more.”
“I think by the time it got to me he wanted to be traded, I think he was already gone,” James said. “He was already gone and it was up to the organization to do their job and try to keep him as well. The guy still had two years left on his contract. They didn’t have to give him up. It could’ve been repaired then. Bring him in, let’s see what happens. I don’t think his stock drops if he still comes to Cleveland, see what happens and at the trade deadline you could still do it then.”
But it was LeBron’s problem. He spent his last year in Cleveland trying to win a championship with a team less-equipped to do so, and he sure felt the stress of that in the moment.
Though there were advantages – like demanding spending – this was a consequence of LeBron’s repeatedly signing short-term contracts with the Cavaliers. They braced for him leaving (which he obviously did last summer for the Lakers) and didn’t want to get stuck. So, they traded Irving for a long-term package.
Also remember: Irving reportedly threatened to undergo season-ending surgery if not traded and even considered requesting a trade after the championship season. He applied a lot of pressure. Easy for LeBron to say not to trade Irving. LeBron was leaving soon, anyway.
I still believe the Cavs erred in their approach with Irving, though. They had one of the greatest players of all-time in LeBron. They shouldn’t have worried about the distant future. Winning the 2017 title should have been the absolute priority. Even if they dealt Irving, they should have traded for immediate contributors. Despite thinking long-term with the Irving deal, Cleveland is still in a terrible position, anyway.
That, at least, is no longer LeBron’s problem.