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All is quiet on the Eastern front: While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their annual Media Day on September 26. I tried searching for this year’s date and couldn’t find it, but you have to assume it’ll be close to the same date. So for the sake of this piece, let’s just pretend it’s the 26th again. That means there are 49 days until the Cavs players show up to Independence and talk to the media. More importantly, that means there are 49 days for the Cavaliers to trade Kyrie Irving or else LeBron James and Kyrie are going to show up together and have to answer questions from the media about this.

A week ago I was pretty confident Kyrie would be traded before Media Day. I guess if you still asked me today, I would still say he almost certainly will be. 49 days (or however many it actually is) is still plenty of time for a deal to come together. But if there’s one reason I’m wavering at all, it’s that things have been somewhat surprisingly quiet on the Kyrie trade front.

Don’t get me wrong, nobody expected a deal to come together in a week or two. But the silence is deafening right now, as they say. There are no rumors, no talk of teams with interest, nothing. Just dead silence. That doesn’t mean calls and talks aren’t happening, but it does mean nothing serious is happening, either.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cavs aren’t trying to trade Kyrie. It could be that teams are hesitant to put out a good offer right now. There’s a strong belief that the closer we get to training camp the more pressure Cleveland will feel to move Kyrie. Teams are banking on the Cavaliers wanting to avoid the drama of Kyrie having to show up for camp. If I were an executive for another team, that’s exactly what I would be doing. Without the Cavs engaging any other team in serious talks, I would feel no urgency to start putting out my best offers.

Indeed, from the Cavaliers’ perspective, their best bet for a great offer is going to be igniting a bidding war for Kyrie. That’s why getting the first team involved in serious talks is so important. That’s the best way for the Cavaliers to increase their leverage and get teams to start making realistic offers. The Cavaliers, in the meantime, will continue to put out branding material with Kyrie’s name on it and insist that they expect Kyrie to be in camp.

And truthfully, the Cavaliers’ position is not as weak as some think. They’re under no real obligation to trade Kyrie. They will oblige if a team makes them a serious offer that Cleveland thinks will help the team compete this year and going forward. If not, Kyrie still has two years left on his contract and if he wants to be traded, he can’t afford to be a distraction or not perform well. From his own marketing and branding perspective as well, Kyrie needs to continue to be a good teammate and play well on the court.

So, for one minute, let’s pretend Kyrie and LeBron do both have to show up for media day. What will happen? I probably wouldn’t expect any joint interviews with the two sitting side by side. I wouldn’t expect any outward animosity, but if there’s any doubt about how LeBron feels about the situation, look no further than a tweet he sent out Monday night.

https://twitter.com/KingJames/status/894754750956163077

It’s been a summer of passive aggressive nonsense from all parties, or, as we’ve come to know it: the Cavaliers way. This franchise has been nothing but a drama train from the moment LeBron’s homecoming essay was posted to Sports Illustrated. And I don’t even mean that in a bad way. It’s been frustrating at times, childish at others, but it’s also been fun, entertaining, and ultimately successful. People say LeBron and Kyrie can’t coexist anymore, but remember, Kevin Love still came back to Cleveland after LeBron’s Fit In/Fit Out tweets and all the constant drama. It won’t be easy, it won’t be the same, but don’t tell me it’s not possible. Anything is possible.

There’s a very real part of me that wants Kyrie to be on the Cavaliers still in late September when Media Day arrives. Not just because he’s my favorite player or because I think the Cavaliers are better with him than without him, but also because I want to see the interaction between LeBron and Kyrie. There’s a fair amount of rubbernecking going on here, but what can I say? This stuff can be fun at times, too.

I’m a born pessimist when it comes to the outcome of games involving my sports teams, but I’m always an optimist when it comes to things like free agency and player relations. I always hang onto hope that players will stay and be happy in Cleveland forever and ever. It almost never happens, of course. Yet I continue to believe there’s still a small chance that Kyrie is on the Cavaliers still this season. And of course in my stupid head, I picture everything working out, the Cavs winning another Championship, LeBron and Kyrie coming to a mutual understanding, and Kyrie deciding he wants to stay on the Cavs and make this his franchise in the long run as LeBron’s career wanes.

Yep, I’m an idiot. None of that is how this is going to play out. The worst case scenario is the Cavs don’t trade Kyrie and Kyrie comes to camp and spends all season being a huge distraction as he keeps the pressure on the Cavs to trade him. Resentment builds in the locker room, the team falls apart, and the season becomes a nightmare and by next year LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin are all gone. The best case scenario is the Cavs get a king’s ransom for Kyrie, the pieces they acquire all fit perfectly, Derrick Rose stays healthy all year, and the Cavaliers not only get better, they find a way to actually beat the Warriors and win another title.

The reality will probably fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes. But the clock is now ticking. Training Camp is fast approaching. Things are quiet today, but I would expect things to pick up in a couple weeks. By September, the Cavaliers will probably start to get a couple modest offers. The question is whether Cleveland can entice that bidding war before then. If not, we could set for an interesting Media Day. Get your popcorn ready.