By now you know that Kyrie Irving has demanded a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Irving’s reasoning is that he no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James. Windhorst further reported that Irving would like to be the focal point of his own team, though later reporting by Chris Haynes revealed Irving’s desired trade destinations, some of which are at odds with this notion.
No matter his thinking or motivation, he no longer wants to be part of the Cleveland Cavaliers organization. I tried to record my initial reactions as a fan and as someone who has been a big Kyrie Irving supporter for years.
Here are those thoughts in video form on the WFNY YouTube Channel, for which you should subscribe and like.
For fans, this is a difficult situation to navigate. Irving has played his entire career in Cleveland. His selection in the 2011 draft and subsequent Rookie-of-the-Year campaign provided hope to an ailing fan base. When things were bad, Irving was good. And things were really bad for awhile. Irving has always shouldered an unfair burden in Cleveland. First, as the savior post-LeBron, and then with championship expectations nearly every season. He answered those expectations and then some. Irving’s accomplishments in Cleveland are incredible, and there is a large swath of Cavaliers fans ready to go to war at even the slightest Kyrie criticism.
But there is also another side of that relationship. Rumors of Irving being unhappy in Cleveland are as old as Irving’s time here. Brian Windhorst reported that Irving was unlikely to sign his rookie extension, and that the presence of Irving would likely prevent James from returning to Cleveland. Obviously, that relationship has worked for the last three seasons, but it is interesting to revisit in light of recent events.
Irving also has good reason for his distaste in the organization. He has played for four coaches in his short career. He’s on his fourth general manager. The team added players like Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters to take the ball out of Kyrie’s hands instead of let him take the lead. There has been dysfunction at every turn, and Irving has been forced to navigate these situations at a very young age. Fans, even in his own city, have often questioned his style of play. A budding star, he signed his extension thinking he would be the leader of a team that then added LeBron James. There were rumors that Irving received push back internally for not playing through injury in the 2015 Finals, a Finals in which Irving broke his knee cap after returning to play. Former General Manager David Griffin gave a somewhat bizarre and candid interview to Fear The Sword after the season where he criticized Irving more than you would expect from a front office member. More recently, the Cavaliers have included Irving’s name in trade talks without first communicating with him. Irving’s desire to leave is certainly not without merit.
But any time a player says they want to leave a winning situation, one in which they were the leading scorer, had the highest Usage rate, and had hit the biggest shot in team history, it is going to be difficult for fans. Irving is effectively shutting the door on a championship window and possibly hurting the Cavaliers’ case for keeping LeBron James beyond this season. By waiting until players like Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Chris Paul had been traded before making this request, he sabotaged the team’s ability to get fair return.
It’s a difficult space for fans. The fan favorite who hit the biggest shot in this city’s history is breaking up a contending team for reasons that feel difficult to understand. He’s also doing it in a way that feels designed to have hurt the team’s leverage to get a decent return. In 20 years we’ll likely remember Kyrie Irving fondly, but today, it’s a difficult pill to swallow.