On Monday morning, Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving joined Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on ESPN’s hit show First Take to talk about his decision to request a trade from the Cavaliers.
Things started off pretty civil. The First Take crew gave Irving time to explain what he was thinking. Irving was very appreciative of the opportunities he was given in Cleveland, saying that, “I was able to develop and evolve as a man, and I just felt it was best for my intentions to leave.”
Stephen A. then didn’t waste any time in asking Irving what happened between him and LeBron James for him to want out of a perennial contender in the Cavaliers. Irving didn’t point to anything specific, saying that he wanted to, “Come in and perfect my craft every single day, and be in an environment where I can be taught every single day, so I can exceed my potential and see how far I can go.”
The segment also got into Irving’s reaction to the leaked reports while he was in China. He said that, “it was hurtful, because I knew how professional I had kept it(with the Cavs).” The NBA world turned upside-down when this report leaked in late July, and it’s clear that Irving was not happy with how the Cavs handled it.
When asked if he’d grown tired of being “Second Fiddle” to James, Irving said, “I don’t really have an ego, I have a presence and an aura about me that’s very reality based... I’m ready to move on, I’m ready to be on my own, and I’m ready to try out a new situation in an environment where I feel I can be happy.”
Max Kellerman took that answer and asked Irving to clarify whether he wanted to play with LeBron anymore. Irving didn’t give Smith or Kellerman the controversial answers they were looking for, so things started to get testy on set.
When Smith asked Irving if he reached out to or talked to LeBron about wanting out, he answered as simply as possible.
Smith: “Did you talk to LeBron James before you let ownership know you wanted out?”
Smith: “Why not?”
Irving: “Why would I have to?”
Smith: “Chances are if you don’t speak to somebody about it they might take it personally.”
Smith: “Do you care about that at all?”
Irving went on to talk about how someone doesn’t owe anyone anything when figuring out what they want to do with their life. “I have nothing but love for Cleveland... But there comes a time when you mature as an individual and you make that decision,” he said.
A lot was made about Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s influence on Irving’s decision, and Kyrie decided to shed some light on the story. Irving said that his relationship with Bryant is strong, but he said that, “The decision was solely on me.” Bryant went through a similar situation when the Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal in 2004, making Kobe the lead man in Los Angeles.
Irving got into it a bit with Kellerman and Smith over the relevance of the questions being asked as the interview went on. Smith wanted to know if Irving thought he’d be a distraction to his team, Kellerman wanted more information on his relationship with LeBron, and Irving didn’t really give an answer they were looking for.
I think the major takeaway here is that Irving is very confident that he made the right decision to the point where he can go on shows like First Take and face non-stop criticism.
Irving and Gordon Hayward are the two star players for the Celtics now. Both of them left pretty comfortable situations in hopes of achieving something greater, and face public criticism for those decisions. If the Celtics are searching for a new identity, that could be it.