CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – How do you counter the second-best player in the league going to a situation where he is less focused upon in order to win a Championship? Demand a trade to be the focal point, of course.
If ESPN’s recent reports are true, (and given the reporters, Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski, they are,) Kyrie Irving asking for a trade would be a complete 180 on the direction of the NBA since 2010.
When LeBron James decided to team up with two other stars to create a super team in Miami, superstars have made concerted efforts to join forces for the greater good. Veterans have followed those players in an effort to be the final piece.
The focus for Irving would be a role as the top dog, a sentiment that has since been echoed by other reporters in the know. The role would not need to be on a winner either, as ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported a list of preferred teams for the point guard.
Only one of those teams was a playoff team a year ago, and two of them seem like they would make the playoffs if they added Irving for what he would cost.
The attempt at a power-play from Irving would still come at a price, with the 25-year old unable to collect on a $200 million-plus extension in 2019.
So why would Irving decide to leave money on the table to potentially go somewhere else to lose?
The point guard has always been an alpha, and claimed as much in an interview with ESPN in 2016.
As if there was any more need for context, Windhorst brought up a quote from Irving after last year’s Finals in which the point guard talked about the difficulty stepping back and handing over the reins.
The report also claims that Irving thought about requesting a trade following the Cavaliers’ title in July of 2016 before thinking better of it. That particular piece of information confirms that that the idea of escaping James’s shadow has always been on his mind.
With a championship ring already in (on?) hand, Irving will never have to be harassed by Shaquille O’Neal on Inside the NBA for not having won a title. For the rest of his career, Irving will be judged mostly by his stat-line by the time the end comes.
Now that Dan Gilbert has again shown his ability to muddy up a good situation, and with the threat of James leaving next off-season, the time for Irving to make his departure is plausible. It may not be the best time, and it will be viewed as selfish in the short-term, but with no lasting impact on his legacy, Irving might would seem to think ‘the sooner, the better.’
Perhaps the most peculiar thing about the timing is that Irving has no leverage in the matter, other than now becoming a distraction. Irving has three years left on his deal, though he can opt out prior to the third.
That being said, the leak of information to reporters is thought to be by way of the team, meaning Irving’s camp was not leaking info to force the trade. If it turns out it was Irving’s side that leaked the information, the Cavaliers could somehow have even less incentive to trade him, claiming diminished returns.
Now the questions for the Cavs and soon-to-be General Manager Koby Altman arise, whether or not they will deal Irving at all. When Kobe Bryant demanded a trade from the Lakers in 2007, he still went to three more Finals with the only franchise he ever played for.
Will LeBron want Irving traded now that his true intentions have surfaced? Does the organization care what James wants or does not want anymore?