The speculation, as mild as it was, can now end. LeBron James won’t be traded within the next year, whether the Cleveland Cavaliers would consider it or not.
James will not waive his no-trade clause under any circumstance, regardless of how the ongoing situation with Kyrie Irving is resolved, according to ESPN.
The report states that the 32-year-old “is focused solely on competing for a championship as a member of the Cavs and will fulfil his contractual obligations, whatever unexpected circumstances may arise”.
While James has locked in with Cleveland for now, he hasn’t committed to staying beyond this coming season and could decline his player option for 2018-19 to test free agency next summer.
The idea of the Cavaliers even considering trading James seemed far-fetched, but became slightly more conceivable after ESPN’s report made Kyrie Irving’s trade request public.
Irving allegedly wants more of a starring role and no longer wants to play alongside James, whether due to a disconnect or with the foresight the four-time MVP will bolt in free agency in a year.
LeBron James makes an interesting song choice after Kyrie Irving's trade demand. 👀🤔— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) July 22, 2017
The trade request wasn’t made public until a couple weeks after Irving informed the Cavaliers of his desire, according to the report.
After Irving’s decision was kept in-house until recently, the point guard believes James leaked the request in an emotional response, according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
While James wouldn’t stand to benefit from leaking the news, as it would damage Irving’s trade value and the Cavaliers’ leverage to make a move, it would be in-line with his passive-aggressive character, which has in the past included scathing subtweets seemingly directed at team-mates.
Irving’s request made a James trade at least worth theorising considering the long-term ramifications for the organisation.
By moving James, Cleveland would once again be able to hand the keys to Irving and restore his role as face of the franchise, perhaps changing his mind of wanting to depart.
On the other hand, by trading Irving either for a package of win-now players or future assets, the Cavaliers would potentially become either slightly worse in the short-term or signal the start of a rebuild, respectively. In either case, James would have less incentive to stick around next summer.
Hence why preemptively trading James before he can again leave the team without fetching anything in return would make some sense.
By indicating he’ll flex his no-trade clause, however, James has left Cleveland with little choice but to appease his win-now mentality and hope it’s enough to keep him.
The Cavaliers are in a state of flux and may have no right answer.