By Matt Citak
Chauncey Billups says he became aware of point guard Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland while interviewing to be the president of basketball operations with the Cavaliers last month.
Owner Dan Gilbert offered him the position, but Billups turned it down because of concerns about Irving’s unrest, along with what might be left on Cleveland’s roster if LeBron James decides to leave in free agency next summer.
“[Irving’s trade request] didn’t surprise me,” Billups said on the Vic Lombardi Show. “I knew as [the Cavs] were doing their due diligence on me, I was doing the same thing on them. I knew so much about the situation that the rest of the world doesn’t know. But it’s unfortunate, man, because he’s a special talent. So much of what he’s been able to accomplish on and off the floor has been as the beneficiary of LeBron James. That would be alarming to me if I was a team looking to get him.”
Many around the league were taken aback by Irving’s trade request, as the point guard helped take the Cavaliers to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Billups was among those surprised, and does not think it makes sense that the 25-year old would want to leave James, Tyron Lue, and the overall situation he is currently in with the Cavaliers.
“You’re getting everything you want,” said the former point guard and five-time NBA All-Star. “You’re getting all the shots you want, you’re playing for a great coach, when the game is on the line they’re coming to you, you’re playing on national TV every week. To me, I don’t get it. Everybody has their own desires. Maybe he wants to be Russell Westbrook and go try to win the MVP and get all the shots. That’s the only sense I can make of it, and to me that doesn’t make sense.”
While the possibility of James leaving next year certainly played a part in Billups’ decision, it was not his biggest concern. In fact, Billups went as far as to say that rebuilding a franchise is a fantastic process. However, Cleveland’s lack of assets beyond the four-time MVP was the main reason he turned down the offer.
“The whole LeBron leaving the next year, to be honest that didn’t bother me that much,” said Billups. “Here’s why: When you have an opportunity to really put something together and put your imprint on it — rebuilding is a beautiful thing if the [owner] is going to have the patience with you. What bothered me more than if LeBron left or not was I didn’t think they had great assets if you have to do a rebuild. It was more that than Bron. Bron and I have always had an amazing relationship.”