The NBA continues to dominate sports headlines, even in the middle of its offseason. After a flurry of stars moving via trade and free agency, it is ironic that the biggest news of the summer was just a trade request. However, it was hardly just a trade request – it was Kyrie Irving, the hero of the 2016 NBA finals and LeBron James’ trusted sidekick, requesting to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving is only 25 years old and has two years remaining on his current contract.


Irving’s request has wide-ranging implications for the league. While the Cavs are under no contractual obligation to trade their star point guard, it would look terrible for the organization to hold onto a disgruntled player and force him to play for the team he has publically stated he wants to leave. Ironically, James, with his 2010 free agency “The Decision” television special, was the one who led the wave of star players wanting to control their own destinies, transforming the NBA into a players’ league.


Forgetting about what a possible haul for Irving would look like in a trade, it is worth exploring how we got here. Even after a disappointing loss in the finals last year, the Cavs were expected to have a quiet offseason, try to improve their bench, and hopefully compete against the Warriors in next year’s finals. Irving’s trade request certainly shattered Cleveland, but there were notable warning signs that this team was not meant to stay together another year.


Irving has undoubtedly paid close attention to the accolades that a pair of ball-dominant point guards received this past year: James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Having already secured a championship ring and in the prime of his career, Irving could be looking to have his own team and put up those kind of numbers over the course of a season. He could also see the fan support and local media attention that star point guards John Wall and Damian Lillard have received and want the same thing for himself.


However, this is unlikely to be the driving factor in his trade request, since Irving led the Cavs in shot attempts and was one of the top five in jersey sales this past season. More importantly, it would most likely be career suicide for Irving to leave just for more control of the offense, since there has been no indication that he can lead a team by himself. The Cavs had a net rating of minus eight when James was on the bench and Irving was on the court last season, and even in the year prior, it was a measly minus 0.5.


Another potential reason for wanting to escape “The Land” stems from a desire to get away from King James. James, while an excellent passer and all-around unselfish player, is particularly demanding as a leader, in the vein of past greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Simply put, James demands excellence from his teammates, and lets them know if they are not playing up to his standard.


After a zero-assist game from Irving in 2015, James gave him a stern lecture about passing the ball. Furthermore, playing with James means every move Irving makes is scrutinized. Even so, once again it is doubtful that Irving would not want to play with James anymore, since James has been more than generous in ensuring Irving gets open shots and the spotlight, such as in Game 7 of the 2016 finals.


The most probable reason for the request is that Irving can see the writing on the wall in Cleveland and wants to get out before the ship sinks. It is no secret that James is a free agent after this season, with his eyes potentially set on a move to Los Angeles. If James were to leave, Irving would be left trying to carry a team with no championship aspirations and no young, exciting prospects with which to rebuild.


Additionally, there has been turmoil in the front office, with the Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert refusing to extend general manager David Griffin’s contract as the NBA Draft and free agency approached. Irving could see an opportunity to escape early and control his own destiny, engineering a trade to a potential contender in Minnesota or San Antonio.


Because of the uniqueness of the situation – a bona fide superstar wanting off the best team in the Eastern Conference, as well as a team trying to convince its second-best player of all time to stay – it is hard to imagine a trade scenario right now where the Cavs, Irving and the third team in the trade all end up happy.












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