CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Kyrie Irving’s trade request this summer shook the Cavaliers, and the rest of the NBA, but the 4-time All-Star still won’t say why he wanted out of Cleveland.
“I don’t want to pinpoint anything,” Irving said Tuesday morning prior to the Celtics shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. “I will never pinpoint anything because that’s not what grown-ups do. They continue to move on with their life and continue to progress and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Irving, who chose not to clarify why he wanted out and chose to keep the reason(s) behind his departure vague, makes his return to Cleveland on opening night in a rematch of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Cavs mere months after the 2 teams completed a blockbuster trade to send Irving to Boston.
“I’m excited to be back,” Irving said. “It’s a little different for all of us but my 6 years being here they were something that helped me evolve as a man and coming in here every single night and strapping up my shoelaces for the Cleveland Cavaliers was something awesome.
“Now I start a new journey, a new step in my career. Ready to get it started, but I’m always truly grateful for them welcoming me with open arms and making sure that me and my family were always supported. Ultimately my love will never change that I have for Cleveland.”
Although the Cavs plan to pay tribute to Irving with a pregame video, he is not exactly expecting a warm reception from the sellout crowd.
“I know that I’ve seen the end of being down there on that other bench and fans booing the opponents and understanding that Cleveland fans want their home team to win,” Irving said. “I expect the same thing.”
Irving requested the trade in a July meeting with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert after reportedly growing tired of playing in LeBron James’ shadow and he wanted to fulfill his desire to be the alpha on his own team.
Cleveland received All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is still recovering from a hip injury, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first-round pick and a 2020 second-round draft pick in exchange for Irving.
Irving recently appeared to take a swipe at Cleveland when he said in an interview that he was excited to play “in a real live sports city.”
He was asked about that comment Tuesday morning.
“I mean, of course it was going to turn into a comparison,” Irving said. “I was talking about driving into Boston. When I’m actually on the highway driving into Boston, the newness and the new environment of going into that city is something different for me. It kind of worked out that I was talking to Marc Spears and it turned into a comparison of me comparing Boston to Cleveland and it wasn’t anything like that.
“But real live sports city is anything you want it to be in terms of your opinion. But for me, it was me driving in and thinking, ‘I’m in a real, live sports city. Something I kind of witnessed from afar that I didn’t really know about until I actually got the chance to be in Boston and see what the fans are like. So that was exciting for me.”
The Cavs selected Irving No. 1 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft and he was instrumental in helping the franchise win its first NBA championship in 2016 and also end a 52-year championship drought in Cleveland by erasing a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Irving hit arguably the biggest shot in franchise history when he drilled a 3 over Steph Curry with less than a minute to play in Game 7.
“I mean, we’re one of one teams right now of doing something very, very special,” Irving said. “And were etched in NBA history forever and I know most teams say that we’re bonded forever, but that couldn’t be more true for the team that came from a 3-1 lead and understanding what we had to do and what we had to commit ourselves to in order to accomplish something bigger than ourselves. I was a part of that special team. Something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Irving still maintains good relationships with a few of his former Cavs teammates that he considers to be true friends.
“The real relationships in terms of the guys you honestly call your friends outside of the floor, those never change,” Irving said, “because they exist and you’re bonded through not only basketball but life and I’m appreciative of those people.”
It does appear though that James is not one of those people.