Every game between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers will be big because they’re two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. But added to that equation this year is the now-rivalry between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Irving famously requested a trade out of Cleveland, and the Cavs responded by moving them to their conference rival in a move that netted them Isaiah Thomas.
While the move, and even IT’s rehab, is old news now, it’s still something that isn’t fully understood by many in the NBA. And on Wednesday, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan wrote a long piece about Kyrie Irving that explores why he wanted out of Cleveland, zeroing in on his competitive drive and the reasons he felt slighted playing with LeBron James there. It’s the most both have talked about the trade yet, though LeBron is still pretty reticent about the whole thing.
But what Irving admits is that he basically didn’t feel wanted by Cleveland after word came out about a potential trade that would have sent him away from Lake Erie. Essentially, Kyrie’s team believes something that was reported over the summer: that LeBron’s people, notably agent Rich Paul, tried to move Irving out of town in a three-team trade with Phoenix and the Pacers that would have got the Cavs both Paul George and Eric Bledsoe.
James and his people, however, say that’s not what happened. And as MacMullan’s reporting indicated, it was actually then-GM David Griffin that initiated the talks that could have resulted in the massive trade.
Team and league sources refute that, saying that it was Griffin who initiated the trade talks with Phoenix. Griffin, who is close with Irving, sensed both his unhappiness and his restlessness and was preparing for the possibility that Irving would request a trade. But once Griffin was no longer employed by the team, the conversations stalled. Cleveland then engaged in talks with Indiana and Denver, according to league sources.
Regardless of who was responsible, Irving was hurt by the news and said he didn’t feel like the team was committed to him anymore.
“They didn’t want me there,” Irving said in the piece.
Irving said he didn’t explain his trade request to the public at the time because “it didn’t matter what others said,” but his statement is one of the few things MacMullan could get LeBron to comment on. He said the idea that Irving wasn’t wanted in Cleveland is ridiculous.
“That makes absolutely no sense,” James said.
This might all seem like window dressing here, but it is significant that the two are slowly talking about exactly what went down over the summer and why Kyrie is in Boston. At the time the trade request seemed like such a ridiculous thing but, if anything, the last few months have given us a very public profile of Kyrie, how his mind works, and exactly what he was feeling despite all the success he and LeBron found in Cleveland.
The human mind is complicated and so, too, is Kyrie Irving.
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