NBA offseason? What offseason?
On Wednesday, I wrote about Cleveland’s less-than-ideal summer, and how it put them in a precarious position, given LeBron’s upcoming free agency. It took two days for the Cavs’ offseason to go from suboptimal to disastrous.
Kyrie Irving wants out. That’s according to a report by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who says Kyrie informed owner Dan Gilbert last week that he wants to be traded. I’m going to use this space to quickly remind you that the Cavs let go of respected GM David Griffin and have yet to hire a replacement. Moving on …
Where in the world did this come from? According to Windhorst, Kyrie wants to be the focus of a team, and no longer wants to play alongside LeBron. As preposterous as it is to read that statement, and to think that Kyrie would not want to play with the best basketball player of the modern era, keep a couple things in mind:
1. Kyrie didn’t initially choose to play with LeBron. It was a reality that was forced on him when LeBron chose to come home.
2. Kyrie is an alpha-type player who has more or less been willing to play second fiddle all these years. Remember the tumultuous first season in Cleveland, when LeBron and Kyrie didn’t exactly fit well together, on or off the court? A ring can soothe the ego for only so long before the real feelings resurface.
Regardless, the timing is certainly interesting. Per the report, James was disappointed to hear about Kyrie’s request. That makes sense. The last image of the Cavs’ season was James walking Irving off the floor of Oracle Arena, telling his point guard they would be back next season.
LeBron is at a stage in his career when harmony and success are of utmost importance. He’s willing to put up with discord for the sake of winning, a mind-set that younger players like Kyrie may not be willing to adopt just yet. My initial reaction was that Kyrie’s request came after he saw the signs of LeBron’s possible departure, but it’s clear there’s a far more concerning motivation fueling his discontent: He doesn’t want to play under LeBron’s shadow any longer. Maybe he never did. Windhorst’s piece recirculated this telling quote from after the most recent NBA Finals:
The repercussions of this news are huge, and I’m sure they will be discussed extensively over the next few days and weeks. Will a trade happen? And if it doesn’t, how will LeBron and Kyrie coexist for a whole season? Does this weaken the East even more and hand the Celtics the no. 1 seed? Could Kyrie team up with Blake Griffin on the Clippers? Is there a deal to be made with the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony? What about Philadelphia, a young, up-and-coming team? Here are some of my colleagues’ Trade Machine concoctions:
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, one of Kyrie’s preferred destinations is the Spurs. (I’m sorry, Kyrie, but this is not how this works. You don’t just want to be on the Spurs, the Spurs have to want you. But hey, maybe they do.) ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported there were three other preferred landing spots: Miami (reunited with Dion!), New York, and Minnesota (Jimmy and Kyrie, yes please).
The impetus is now on the Cavs, who lately have been hindered by mismanagement, or lack of management. The crossroads just got more confusing, the once-dead offseason just got a lot more lively.
"Like I said, we’re in a peculiar place," Irving said Tuesday at Sports Illustrated’s Fashionable 50 event. "The best thing we can do is handle things with class and professionalism. … At this point, we just see what happens throughout the summer."
This is revisionist history, but maybe when we were reading into Kyrie’s comments earlier this week, it’s not LeBron we should have been thinking about, but the source itself.