After spending his entire career with the franchise and helping them win their first title, the star point guard wants out and it's somewhat understandable why.
Before the world could wait on pins and needles for LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’ vol. 3, Kyrie Irving decided to preemptively press the eject button.
The All-Star point guard’s tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers could be over after he requested a trade last week and according to ESPN, his reasons for wanting to leave are centred on being “more of a focal point” elsewhere as he “no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James”.
Irving has also allegedly made it known to Cleveland the four teams he prefers a trade to: San Antonio, Miami, New York and Minnesota.
James was reportedly “blindsided and disappointed” by the request, while the NBA world was similarly stunned when the news broke on Friday night.
No one saw this coming, but if you reverse engineer how Irving reached this point, it starts to make more sense.
For starters, the Cavaliers organisation has been a dumpster fire this summer, stemming from the franchise parting ways with general manager David Griffin after the two sides couldn’t agree on a contract extension.
The loss of Griffin may have been overstated as far as team-building, but there’s no doubting he had fostered relationships with players like James and Irving in his three years, which featured a trip to the Finals every season and the team’s first title in 2016.
If nothing else, his presence at least afforded the Cavaliers stability amidst the volatility of owner Dan Gilbert and the questionable future of James.
Even if Gilbert was still around, however, it’s hard to imagine the roster being much better. A bloated payroll has limited the Cavaliers’ ability to add players this offseason as they’ve so far come up empty on Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
The situation just doesn’t seem like it can change much in the near future, at least not for the better.
It can get a whole lot worse though – or more desirable depending on perspective – if James bolts in free agency next summer.
In that case, Irving would once again be the face of the franchise, which he believed he was becoming for the long-term when he signed a five-year extension days before James’ arrival in 2014.
Maybe Irving wants that but doesn’t want to wait another year for the possibility, or maybe he doesn’t want to be a slave to James’ decision and potentially be left out in the cold like Dwyane Wade was.
Irving could very well want to be main man somewhere else, but each of the four teams he named for his preferred new home have at least one star or star in the making.
It’s more likely he just wants to get away from James, who, for all his unworldly talent and skill, has a leadership style that can often rub teammates the wrong way – whether that’s through subtweets, screaming in the huddle, eye rolls or body language.
LeBron casts an undeniably large shadow and for Irving, it may be time to get out in the sun.