While Cavalier fans are left wondering what the hell is happening in Independence, Cleveland’s former general manager went to bat for disgruntled point guard Kyrie Irving. On Monday afternoon’s episode of ESPN’s “The Jump,” David Griffin said Irving’s recent trade demands were not ignorant as much as they were courageous.
“This isn’t youthful ignorance,” said Griffin. “He handled the situation exactly like he was supposed to. He went to [Cavs owner] Dan Gilbert privately, told him that he thought he would be happier somewhere else. The absolute worst thing this guy could have done was pretend to be all-in and sink the ship from within. Most guys don’t have the courage to do what he did.”
Irving shocked the NBA by requesting a trade from the very team that not only won him his first NBA Championship, but one that is on pace to make their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance, citing the desire to no longer play with four-time MVP LeBron James. The subsequent weeks have been littered with opinions on how this request should be digested at both the league and fan level. Griffin’s comments carry significant depth as he was the team’s general manager when Irving signed a contract extension early in the 2014 free agency period. It was Griffin’s departure that many feel is at the root of Irving’s request, reports circulating that the point guard wished to exclaim his frustration earlier, but could not get a meeting as the team was without a general manager.
Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Ron Harper blasted Irving’s decision as being the product of youthful ignorance, but Griffin completely disagreed.
“I see this as him looking for a fit for himself, to take the next step in his career,” Griffin continued. “I think this is a guy who wants to know how good he can be. LeBron casts a very large shadow over an organization. And most of it is really, really positive. You know you are expected to win a championship by way of example. But what that doesn’t always allow is for a player like Kyrie to test his boundaries and see how good he can really be, and can I really be the front man of a team like that.”
Irving reportedly wants more stability within a franchise that is willing to make him the face. Reports earlier in this process documented jealousy of players like John Wall and Damian Lillard who have become the focal points of their respective franchises while playing point guard. In requesting a trade this summer, Irving allows the Cavaliers to maximize his value rather than limit the number of potential trade targets for what would be considered a one-year rental. It is also worth noting that Griffin himself has seen first hand what has gone on behind closed doors as he was not given a contract extension following the team’s championship in the summer of 2016 (while head coach Tyronn Lue was), and was unable to come to terms with owner Dan Gilbert leading up to his departure in late July.
Meanwhile, James is doing just fine, ensuring that regardless of what Irving does, he knows that the winning didn’t start until the summer of 2014.