LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have gone from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy together 13 months ago, with each making iconic plays with Irving’s 3-pointer and James’ block late in Game 7, to Irving requesting a trade out of Cleveland in order to get onto a new team where he can be the star.
It’s been James was reportedly blindsided by the news of Irving’s trade request, but Irving reportedly thinks it was actually James’ camp that leaked the news to the media. James had been silent publicly on the matter for the first few days following the request becoming known, but we’ve heard reports that he’s been upset by the request — Stephen A. Smith alleged that James wanted to beat up Irving, which was hard to believe.
Cleveland has already begun replacing Irving by signing Derrick Rose to a 1-year deal on Monday night, which elicited an excited response from James on Twitter. While James had still not addressed the Irving request, Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon reported James was “eager” for Irving to be traded.
Rose, 28, the 2011 NBA MVP whose career has been hampered by knee injuries, will come to the Cavs looking for his first trip to the Finals after eight pro seasons. He’s also looking at a potential starting spot in the same lineup with LeBron James, now that Irving has asked for a trade and James is eager to see him off.
Vardon also reported that Rose and the Cavaliers spent their Monday meeting discussing how to make the Finals without Kyrie, which indicates that any kind of reconciliation between Irving and Cleveland seems highly unlikely.
James is a fiercely loyal teammate to those he likes — just ask James Jones — but he will move on from those that don’t want to be around. Irving appears to think he’ll be better off being able to spread his wings away from the King, so it stood to reason that James would be ready to move forward without him.
However, on Tuesday, when Vardon’s report began circulating, James caught wind of it and issued a strong response on Twitter calling it “#NotFacts,” and telling people that he’s enjoying his summer.
James also fired back at Smith’s report about wanting to “beat Kyrie’s ass” with the same message.
Publicly, this is the right stance for LeBron to take, shooting down the idea that he would so quickly shrug off a star teammate. However, privately he might have frustratedly told someone in his camp that if Kyrie wanted out then so be it, let him out, which could’ve been relayed to Vardon as him being “eager” to have Irving dealt.
As always, there are shades of gray involving sourced material — it’s also possible Vardon (among others like Smith) got incorrect information given to him — but, for now, we at least have something on the record from LeBron in the form of a denial that he is ready to have Irving gone.