Isaiah Thomas is not playing in the game after making his season debut Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers, so the main storyline heading into this one other than the two best teams in the east facing off is that it’s LeBron vs Kyrie part two.
Leave it to one of the best writers in all of sports to pump out a great piece on arguably the biggest story of this summer, Kyrie Irving’s trade request. Jackie MacMullen went behind the scenes to reveal some interesting bits about what exactly went into Irving asking out of Cleveland.
The Cavs tried to trade Irving
When Irving’s trade request was reported, many were shocked that he would want to leave a team that has gone to the NBA Finals for three consecutive seasons, and has the best basketball player in the world on it in LeBron James. Apparently, Irving wasn’t the first to think about a potential split.
“What they didn't know was Cleveland had explored trading Kyrie 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."“
The reported deal was a three-team trade that would send Irving and Channing Frye to the Phoenix Suns, and bring Paul George and Eric Bledsoe to the Cavaliers. No formal offers were made, as the Suns were unwilling to give up their fourth overall pick, but the news of the trade did not go over well for Irving. He claimed that, “They didn’t want me there.”
“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.”
It’s important to note that sources have refuted the above comment, and instead said that it was David Griffin who initiated the trade talks before he left the team.
“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.”
Afterwards, Irving and his agent sat down with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to express his concerns and ask about LeBron’s future with the team. Gilbert took down some desired destinations for Irving and Boston was not on that initial list.
Irving is always looking for more challenges
Another key point made MacMullen’s article is how Irving is always looking to increase his level of difficulty on the basketball court. Examples highlighted in the piece include telling Iman Shumpert to contest his layup attempts in pregame warmups, as well as defending Ramon Sessions in practice so intensely that he would rather not bring the ball up. Marcus Smart has also noticed Irving’s attempts at challenging himself.
"Sometimes, when Kyrie goes to the basket, he makes it more difficult than it even has to be. That's how he pushes himself."
It wouldn’t be an Irving article without a reality-based comment about personal growth now would it?
"Challenges are what makes us most human," Irving says. "[Fighting off] the fear of failure, showing people you are the best, that you've been preparing for this moment ... those are things that interest me."
Drederick Irving influence?
Irving talks very fondly of his father Drederick, who raised him on his own after Kyrie’s mother passed away when he was four years-old. Cavaliers officials were not fans of him according to the articles.
That fondness does not extend to Drederick Irving, Kyrie's father, who some Cavs officials feel planted seeds of his discontent with his son. "He filled Ky's head with ideas that we didn't appreciate him," one team executive says.
The piece also states how since Irving has been in Boston, Drederick has chosen to “stay on the sidelines.”
Larry Bird comparisons
Danny Ainge has liked what he’s seen out of Irving as a leader, and compares him to Celtics legend Larry Bird in that sense.
Celtics boss Danny Ainge, for his part, likens Irving to Larry Bird, who, depending on the situation, could be introverted or extroverted. Bird diverted attention if he felt too suffocated by the adulation, but he also embraced the limelight when the game was on the line and the ball was in his hands. "Those are threads Larry and Kyrie share," Ainge says.
Not too bad of a player to follow in terms of the legacy he left, and Ainge said that Irving is still growing into that leadership role.
I highly recommend reading the entirety of MacMullen’s piece on ESPN. It’s a good way to prepare for tonight’s clash between the two best teams in the eastern conference. The stakes are always high when LeBron comes into TD Garden, but now the rivalry with Irving just adds fuel to that fire.
The Celtics and Cavs tip off at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.