Maybe Cava­liers should ditch Irv­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - MARLA RI­DE­NOUR

The Cleve­land Cava­liers do not have to trade Kyrie Irv­ing.

They do not have to ca­pit­u­late to the wishes of a point guard who can­not be­come a free agent un­til 2019.

But re­pair­ing the dam­age done in­side the locker room by Irv­ing’s re­quest that leaked out Fri­day would be no easy feat. The Cavs’ “All for One” and “All In” mot­tos were torched in an in­stant. The re­port by ESPN’s Brian Wind­horst that Irv­ing wants to be dealt to a team on which he can be a fo­cal point and not LeBron James’ wing­man car­ries with it the pre­sump­tion that per­sonal star­dom is more im­por­tant to him than win­ning.

If that’s the case, I don’t want some­one that self­ish on my team.

If that’s the case, I can’t see James and Kevin Love and J.R. Smith and Tris­tan Thompson con­vinc­ing him oth­er­wise. It seemed a throw­back to Irv­ing’s younger days, when the Cavs’ first over­all pick in 2011 seemed more fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing his brand as he slogged through three sea­sons with a 78-152 record.

Do the Cavs want to play with some­one who hurt their chances of trad­ing him for a high-pro­file player by not in­form­ing the team of his wishes be­fore the June 22 draft? Although for­mer Cavs Gen­eral Man­ager David Grif­fin parted ways with owner Dan Gilbert on June 19, Grif­fin con­tin­ued to as­sist the team un­til his con­tract ex­pired on June 30. Had Irv­ing voiced his feel­ings be­fore the draft, the Cavs might have landed the In­di­ana Pacers’ Paul Ge­orge, or more likely the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers’ Chris Paul, James’ close friend.

If Irv­ing would rather make more money from shoes and en­dorse­ments and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials, would get more sat­is­fac­tion from those than chas­ing an­other cham­pi­onship ring, then I’m ready to let the best iso­la­tion player in the league go if the deal is right.

But I’m not giv­ing him away for Carmelo Anthony, 33, with­out a young player and/or draft pick along with him. The Chicago Bulls got the sev­enth over­all pick and young play­ers Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine (although LaVine is com­ing off a torn ACL) for Jimmy But­ler. Irv­ing should be worth that much de­spite his de­fen­sive li­a­bil­i­ties. New Gen­eral Man­ager Koby Alt­man’s phone should be ring­ing off the hook and one of the call­ers could be the Suns, who have a de­fen­sive-first point guard in Eric Bled­soe and fourth over­all pick Josh Jack­son of Kansas. On Thurs­day, the Suns hired the Cavs’ James Jones as vice pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions; Jones would pro­vide Irv­ing an im­me­di­ate con­fi­dante.

I re­al­ize it’s not easy be­ing Robin to James’ Bat­man. Dur­ing LeBron 1.0, the Cavs never found any­one ca­pa­ble of han­dling the role. But the fact that the Cavs are 4-23 in the past three sea­sons with­out James doesn’t give much cre­dence to Irv­ing’s be­lief that he’s ready to carry a team. The fact that he re­port­edly men­tioned the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves, who traded for But­ler on draft night, and the San An­to­nio Spurs, led by Kawhi Leonard, among four pos­si­ble trade des­ti­na­tions is con­found­ing as well.

Per­haps Irv­ing has silently har­bored re­sent­ment that he de­cided he could no longer bear. He agreed to a five-year, $94 mil­lion con­tract ex­ten­sion on July 1, 2014, think­ing the Cavs were fi­nally his team. Ten days later, James an­nounced he was com­ing home.

Irv­ing can’t be a true point guard with James, who of­ten brings the ball up court and is the su­pe­rior passer. It’s not hard to see how frus­trat­ing that could be. Irv­ing spoke on more than one oc­ca­sion last sea­son about not know­ing how much longer he would get the op­por­tu­nity to play with James, although it was pre­sumed he was talk­ing about James’ de­ci­sion in 2018 free agency, not one he would make.

An­a­lysts were quick to point out Fri­day that this could turn out like it did for Irv­ing’s idol Kobe Bryant, who asked the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers to trade him to the Bulls in 2007. Bryant did not get his wish, and won his fourth and fifth NBA cham­pi­onships af­ter that.

But this sit­u­a­tion might not be wrapped up in a wine and gold bow. I’m not sure that Irv­ing and James can re­pair their re­la­tion­ship af­ter Irv­ing’s re­quest left James “blind­sided and dis­ap­pointed,” ac­cord­ing to Wind­horst. Fo­cused on an­other ti­tle, James might be able to co-ex­ist. But Irv­ing’s long­ing to be a team’s star doesn’t seem con­ducive to cham­pi­onship chem­istry.

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