Kyrie Irving’s close reading of the writing on his Cleveland walls helped him prepare for departure from his first NBA team.
The Boston Celtics guard revealed in early December he felt his Cleveland Cavaliers exit was “inevitable,” according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. Irving contends the Cavs started shopping him around the NBA last June, at least a month before rumors of his trade request emerged, and MacMullan’s Cavs and NBA sources back up the player’s version of events.
Having suspected Irving had grown unhappy and restless in Cleveland following the Cavs’ loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals, outgoing Cavs general manager David Griffin started trade talks with the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers in mid-June. Sources close to Irving told MacMullan the Cavs’ initiation of trade talks “stung” Irving, who believed LeBron James was a driving force behind his potential move. In response, Irving began considering a new challenge and a future away from Cleveland after six seasons with the team.
Griffin left the Cavs on June 19, and the Irving trade talks stalled but didn’t stop. NBA sources told MacMullan that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert acted as GM after Griffin’s exit and spoke with Indiana and the Denver Nuggets about a trade for Irving.
Gilbert then met with Irving’s representatives July 9 to discuss his future and simultaneously (and unsuccessfully) sought a commitment from James to remain in Cleveland beyond the 2017-18 season. Gilbert also learned that day Irving’s preferred trade destinations were the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves, but the Cavs owner already was casting his eyes on the Boston Celtics’ collection of assets and began trade talks with their Eastern Conference rival. It was around this time rumors of Irving’s apparent trade request emerged.
“I had a talk with Dan in the most professional way possible,” Irving told MacMullan. “I expressed my feelings, and we had a genuine conversation about what was next.
“I thought there would be a sense of confidentiality on everyone’s part. I’m not going to point fingers, even though I know fingers will get pointed anyway, but the way it happened was disappointing. It was hurtful how it spun out. It turned into a narrative where everyone got to have an opinion on why I should do this, why I should do that. I’m this. I’m that. I’m selfish. That’s fine because that’s not reality. It was just a bunch of noise.”
Cleveland and Boston didn’t finalize the trade, which sent Irving to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick and the Miami Heat’s 2020 second-round pick, until August.
But the leaks about Irving’s trade request already had damaged his relationship with the Cavs and their fans, and the trade talks led him to one conclusion:
“(Leaving) was inevitable,” Irving said. “I could feel it.
“… They didn’t want me there.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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