But maybe Irving’s problem wasn’t with the Cavs as an organization exploring trading him.
Maybe it was with a specific Cav looking to trade him – LeBron James.
He was convinced and remains convinced – maybe not now, maybe now because he’s so enlightened – that LeBron wanted him gone, that LeBron wanted him traded, that LeBron wanted to bring in his guys. And that’s when he decided to go. It wasn’t that Gilbert was maybe going to trade him. The fact that he thought LeBron wanted him moved on. And now LeBron denies that that was ever the case. I asked him myself.
Still, perhaps that was only because Irving’s trade request had become public, undermining the Cavs’ leverage. Throughout that saga, LeBron certainly didn’t act as if he were invested in Irving staying.
How long had this been building? Irving reportedly considered requesting a trade in 2016, a year before he actually he did. Did Irving believe for years LeBron wanted him gone?
Really, there are two key questions here: Did LeBron want Irving traded? Did Irving believe LeBron wanted him traded. Both mattered. Even if LeBron never wanted Irving traded but Irving believed otherwise, that perception apparently drove Irving’s exit from Cleveland.