“We just have to, you know, make sure that all our pieces are aligned first, and then we go from there,” said Irving. “It’s the summertime, a lot of craziness going on in the NBA.”
Well, they just got a lot stranger. Now, reportedly fed up with playing second fiddle to LeBron James since his return to Cleveland, Irving has requested a trade, even further complicating the future of a franchise that is desperately trying to convince James to stay in place come next offseason.
Jeff Wechsler, Irving’s agent, wouldn’t confirm the trade request; however, it has been made clear by members of the organization. Apparently, the Cavs tried to keep the issue private in order to maximize Irving’s trade value.
“Kyrie and I had a meeting with Cavs leadership where we discussed many different scenarios in reference to Kyrie and his future with the team,” said Wechsler. “The basis of those discussions and what went on in those discussions are between the Cavs and us. We are respectfully going to keep those private.”
Irving has named the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New York Knicks as teams he’d like to play for, with the San Antonio Spurs as his preferred destination.
Weeks before Irving’s displeasure in Cleveland hit the news cycle; the Cavs reportedly tried to shop Kyrie, offering him in deals to the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler and Indiana Pacers for Paul George; however, Butler ended up with the Timberwolves and George with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Butler has been recruiting Irving to come to Minnesota since the trade.
It is unclear at this point which of the names Irving has listed (if any) will make a move for the All-Star point guard. The New York Knicks seem the most likely, as some executives within the organization have noted they would be willing to trade Carmelo Anthony and a future first-round draft pick in exchange for Irving, noting, however, that Kristaps Porzingis is not on the table. While Melo has made it clear he would prefer to end up with the Houston Rockets alongside Chris Paul and James Harden, he would most likely be satisfied getting out of New York with a chance to play with longtime friend LeBron James.
Irving has spent his entire NBA career with the Cleveland Cavaliers after becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. LeBron returned from Miami before the 2014-2015 season, and Kevin Love arrived from Minnesota the same year to form the Cavs’ Big Three.
While Irving benefited from LeBron and Love being on the court with him and the team’s three NBA Finals appearances in the past three seasons (including a championship last season), he clearly grew upset with always being behind LeBron. Irving was asked about going off on his own after his superstar performance in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics this past postseason.
“It’s hard not to think about because as I continue to get older and I’m playing with an unbelievable player like Bron, you know, from the outsider’s perspective, it could be seen a few ways,” said Irving. “And for me, it’s—it hasn’t been anything short of difficult, trying to figure out when will it be my time, when will it—and the honest answer from me is that I cannot give any energy to anything that people say would be best for the team, or even sometimes what I think would be best.”
Irving also acknowledged, however, that the Cavs might be the peak of his career.
“My job is to be in the moment, especially with an unbelievable player like him,” continued Irving. “You have to just enjoy the ride as much. You know, individual goals that you have to just push to the side because this team, nothing is promised, and who knows what would happen down the line, and this is probably hands down the best team that I’ve ever played with, and probably will play with if we all stay together.”
It would be difficult to imagine a team led by Irving that could defeat LeBron’s Cavs. Irving had his chance to lead a team before LeBron’s return, and we all saw how that played out, with the Cavs earned the No. 1 overall pick three out of four years. Of course, at that time, Irving was young, fresh out of college, and didn’t have anyone like LeBron to mentor him. He was thrown into the role. Now, with the chance to more or less pick his destination, Irving has a chance to make an impact wherever he goes.
Of course, going to any of his preferred teams except maybe the Knicks and Heat would put him in the passenger’s seat in a different city.