The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports

The Fuller Story of Kyrie’s Desire to Leave Cleveland

Cavs G Kyrie Irving showing frustration

The Fuller Story of  Kyrie’s Desire to Leave Cleveland

BY Matthew Long


The news broke about a week ago that Kyrie Irving was requesting that the Cleveland Cavaliers trade him elsewhere. Almost instantly alarm came from the sports media world, breaking the news and pulling for pundits to answer questions.

In actuality, this was more so recycled news than really breaking news. According to reports, Kyrie approached the Cavs front office and ownership this offseason before the major trades went down for stars Paul George, Chris Paul, and Jimmy Bulter. This was wide public knowledge, but according to a source, Cleveland’s now departed general manager David Griffin was in talks to move Irving to the Phoenix Suns.

No information was provided to who was all involved in the trade. If the rumor of the three team trade holds weight, it had Kyrie going to the New York Knicks, Kevin Love going to the Suns and sending Eric Bledsoe to the Cavs along with the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. It looks like Eric Bledsoe might have been a part of what the Suns would have offered. Nonetheless, Griffin walked away from that Cavs GM position before anything was done.

There has been speculation that Kyrie’s original request to be traded was seen as posturing by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and the Cavs front office. But if that was the case, why would Griff be in conversations with the Suns regarding moving Irving? I don’t believe he would.

Let’s digress for a moment to bring one thing into focus, this is not the first time the guard for the Cavs has requested to be traded. It was known throughout the basketball world that Kyrie wanted out of Cleveland near the end of his rookie deal. Most rookies that are with the teams that draft them at the end of their rookie deal sign an extension because it’s the first opportunity to make “change your life money”, in which the team that drafts them has the best opportunity to offer them the most money. So, him signing isn’t odd, but what some have said is that he was promised that with a five-year max contract and that the franchise would start to build the team around him.

The Cavs hired Griffin who was highly sought after, as GM in May of 2014. He finalized Kyrie’s extension by the beginning of July and was aiming to draft Andrew Wiggins out of the University of Kansas with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. Next, he hired David Blatt, who had tremendous success coaching in Europe.  According to reports, what was to happen next blindsided Kyrie. He was set with a shiny new max contract, a new head coach that looked promising, and rising star NBA prospect Wiggins. Then… LeBron James and “the decision” changed everything.

LeBron willed the rearranging of the Cavs which was highlighted in the return home letter, that put in motion a three team trade that sent the Cavs 2013 first overall pick Anthony Bennett, 2014 first overall pick Andrew Wiggins and former Philadelphia 76ers first round pick Thaddeus Young to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Philly received forward Luc Richard Mdaha Moute, guard Alexey Shved and the Miami Heat’s 1-10 protected first-round pick from Minnesota (via Cleveland). The Cavs got All Star forward Kevin Love.

Many have struggled to understand how this was bad for Kyrie. I mean who wouldn’t want to play with stars like LeBron and Love? But maybe it’s because the term “bad” doesn’t really apply, he was shocked. The event was not expected and it changed his world for better or worse, but regardless that was truly up to Kyrie to decide for himself.

An interview with Kyrie over the summer showed a non-prismatic demeanor of the return of “The Chosen One” to Cleveland. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported Tuesday on his national radio show, that Kyrie wasn’t aware “that LeBron was coming back to Cleveland, and Kyrie was salty from that moment,” which is something I have heard and talked about on my radio show in the past. Over the summer on a flight arriving back to the US, Irving trolled LeBron singing “I’m coming home.”

Now, fast forward a little to the summer following “the shot” and the Cavs bringing the NBA Championship to Cleveland. It was again reported that Kyrie was asking the organization to trade him. From a value side that makes sense, he was coming off a good season where he put the exclamation point on the Golden State Warriors to seal the victory and the title. He out shines the best player in the world at that moment, although most of the headlines credited LeBron with winning the title.

Now from Kyrie’s view, he loses his spot light again to LeBron after he drove the dagger to win the ring. The Cavs earlier that season axed another of his head coaches and the dysfunction seems to be looming regardless of how the team performs. In 2017, the dysfunction would seem to hit a fever pitch when LeBron lashed out stating the team “needed another playmaker” after dropping six of their previous seven games. Now, the feeling was that GM David Griffin wasn’t getting the job done regardless of LeBron saying that he had no issues with Griff.

Then in June, Griff and the senior vice president of basketball operations Trent Redden both elected to not renew their contract with Cleveland, which expired June 30. Reports surfaced afterward that Gilbert low balled Griffin enticing him to move on from the organization. Now more front office staff are gone and after the defeat, they were handed in the NBA Finals this year, understandably, not a lot of hope that things could stabilize.

The Cavs have never been a mecca for attracting NBA talent and outside of James, they haven’t been able to attract a single star in free agency with or without the best player in the game. This offseason proved to be more of the case of failing to improve the roster in any meaningful way, all the while the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets add strength to their lineups.

It wasn’t until this place Friday that the Cavs began to ink the contract of their new GM, or more accurately their promoted GM, former assistant GM Koby Alterman. The hope isn’t over for Kyrie to get moved, but none of us should be surprised if he is on the Cavs roster to open the season. In conjunction none of us should be slighted by him wanting to move on either.


[Photo: Ron Schwane / AP]


Follow Matthew Long on Twitter @mattlongsports for updates on all things sports and entertainment, and listen to The Cold Hard Truth: On Truth radio show Tuesdays from 8:30p-10:30p EST on GoLong Media powered by and subscribe to the YouTube channel.

The CHT: On Sports Radio Show – Kyrie and Cavs at A Crossroads
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The CHT: On Sports Radio Show – Kyrie and Cavs at A Crossroads

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