Last summer, news of then-Cleveland Cavaliers star point guard Kyrie Irving seeking a trade away from the team shocked many NBA observers. From the first reports of Irving's desire to be traded in mid-July to him landing with the Boston Celtics (after the trade was reviewed and altered) in late August, Irving's trade request sent shockwaves through the league all offseason.
In short, few could understand how Irving could seek to be traded away from a team that went to three straight NBA Finals and boasted LeBron James. Irving, though, was reportedly on the trading block before that, writes Jackie MacMullen of ESPN.com.
In her story published today, she reports that the Cavs sought to trade Irving in June, a fact Irving said is "distorted" when talk of his trade request came to light:
What they didn't know was Cleveland had explored trading Irving in June, long before he asked out, a fact conveniently omitted when word of his demand leaked. Irving made the decision to remain silent while the details of his request were, in his word, "distorted."
"I didn't feel the need to say anything because I knew the truth, and so did they," he says. "So it didn't matter what others said."
Still, for a split second, Irving winces, as though someone has pricked him with a pin.
"They didn't want me there," he says.
As for the specific timeline of when the Cavs shopped Irving, MacMullen reports it took place roughly around when the team parted ways with former GM David Griffin in mid-June and new GM Koby Altman was hired in late July. During that span, owner Dan Gilbert served as the primary decision-maker for the Cavs and, shortly before Griffin left, explored a three-way deal with Phoenix and Indiana involving Irving.
Here's more from MacMullen:
In mid-June, shortly before Griffin left, team and league sources confirm, the Cavs explored a three-way deal with Phoenix and Indiana that would have shipped Irving and Channing Frye to the Suns and brought Eric Bledsoe and Paul George to Cleveland. The Suns resisted, unwilling to part with their No. 4 pick, which they planned to use to draft Josh Jackson.
None of the teams made a formal offer, but news of this potential transaction stung Irving, who, sources close to him say, became convinced that LeBron's camp, which also represents Bledsoe, orchestrated the trade talks.
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.
MacMullen reports that Irving and his agent, Jeff Wechsler, talked with Gilbert on July 9 and pressed Gilbert about the future of James. Gilbert, according to the report, then asked Irving for trade destinations, which Wechsler rattled off the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Boston was not mentioned but, MacMullen reports, Gilbert became interested in the Celtics and securing the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick Boston held. Once reportedly presented with the Celtics as a trade partner, Gilbert went to James and tried to nail down a pledge from him to stay with the Cavs beyond 2017-18. ESPN.com reports team and league sources confirm James would not commit to that.
Griffin declined to be interviewed for the ESPN.com story. To Irving, writes MacMullen, there were always misconceptions about how his trade request happened.
"But there's a misconception how all this went down," Irving says. "I was traded to Boston. I had no say at all in where they sent me. There were no conversations like, 'OK, this is an opportunity we can pursue.' It wasn't a recruitment process."
"I had a talk with Dan in the most professional way possible," Irving says. "I expressed my feelings, and we had a genuine conversation about what was next.
"I thought there would be a sense of confidentiality on everyone's part. I'm not going to point fingers, even though I know fingers will get pointed anyway, but the way it happened was disappointing. It was hurtful how it spun out. It turned into a narrative where everyone got to have an opinion on why I should do this, why I should do that. I'm this. I'm that. I'm selfish. That's fine because that's not reality. It was just a bunch of noise."