The league is moving and shaking in free agency. If LeBron James ends up leaving Cleveland again, Kyrie Irving is probably gone too.
Lost amidst the maelstrom of NBA gossip over the last few days is how the Cleveland Cavaliers’ flurry of rumors could affect Kyrie Irving. With LeBron James eligible to opt out of his contract after next season, the Cavs’ point guard has been making it known to friends around the league that he could push for a trade in that scenario.
A report by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times mentions Irving’s mindset within the larger context of the growing connection between forward Jimmy Butler and Cleveland. Multiple outlets reported on Tuesday morning that Butler has been pushing for a trade to the Cavaliers since their interest in him was made public late last week. This is a huge change for Butler, who throughout the past two seasons has worked to make his relationship to the Bulls’ front office a passive one.
However, until Cowley’s report, little was known about the impact of these rumors on the Cavaliers. Rumors started immediately after the Finals about James’s possible departure to one of the Los Angeles teams, but most of that was here-say. If Cowley is to be believed, Cleveland could be looking at a situation — just two years after it won a title — in which none of James, Irving or Kevin Love is with the team. On Monday afternoon, General Manager David Griffin left the team after failing to agree on a contract extension with Owner Dan Gilbert.
It makes sense that Irving would consider other options if Cleveland’s championship-caliber infrastructure falls away, and James’s departure would be the ultimate indicator of that deconstruction. Irving has improved by leaps and bounds next to James, Love and the rest of the roster installed by Griffin. This is the only city Irving has ever played in, and we all know that superstars start to look around when they come off their second contract.
If this sequence of changes does fall into place, it could discourage Irving. For a team only one year removed from its first NBA championship, there is a lot of uncertainty rising to the surface.