When Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers there were some that suggested Cleveland ignore his request and force him to return to the team. Dan Gilbert said initially that the plan was to have Irving at training camp and that was LeBron’s reported preference as well.
However, things changed quickly and as we know now, the Cavs pulled the trigger on a deal to ship their All-Star point guard to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the 2018 Brooklyn first round pick. The Celtics offer was the best they could get at the time, although there were reportedly better options available prior to the draft that could have possibly netted them Paul George and Eric Bledsoe.
If Cleveland’s first instinct was to try to make things work, the question has been what happened to change that hope prior to training camp. According to a report from Joe Vardon of cleveland.com, the change was when Irving threatened to shut it down for the season if he weren’t dealt.
According to Vardon, Irving threatened to have surgery on his knee that would help him reduce swelling as a follow-up to a procedure he had done in the summer of 2015. Irving reportedly told the Cavs that he would skip training camp and have the procedure during the season, forcing the Cavs to be without a point guard at all.
According to multiple sources, Irving threatened to sit out the season and have surgery on his knee, convincing Gilbert and Cleveland’s front office that the relationship with Irving was not salvageable.
Such a procedure is typically done in the offseason; but he threatened to not come to training camp and then have the procedure during the season, leaving the Cavs without a point guard.
Considering the assumption was Irving had very little leverage in the situation, this certainly changes that perception and proves how serious he was about getting out of Cleveland. The procedure he was threatening to have is obviously not a necessity to play, but is an option for him and something Vardon says will likely get done at some point in the future during the offseason.
Following through on that decision would have been a bold move for Irving considering he’s a budding star and missing a season in your prime to have voluntary surgery that could be done in the offseason would be risky for numerous reasons. However, the Cavs weren’t willing to call his bluff which, again, Vardon notes upset LeBron. Now Irving is starring for the Celtics while his replacement in Cleveland, Isaiah Thomas, has arguably had a bigger impact in sparking controversy off the court than he has provided much positive on the court.