NBA

Cleveland Cavaliers lose unlikely option of trading LeBron James as he reportedly won't waive no-trade clause

Jay Asser 24/07/2017
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Going nowhere...for now: LeBron James. Picture: Getty Images.

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.

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.

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Exploring Kyrie Irving's landing spots and Cleveland Cavaliers' trade partners

Jay Asser 22/07/2017
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Making his play: Kyrie Irving. Picture: Getty Images.

When informing the Cleveland Cavaliers of his request to be traded, Kyrie Irving gave them a list of four teams he would prefer as destinations – San Antonio, Miami, Minnesota and New York – according to ESPN.

Now, the Cavaliers aren’t beholden to anything Irving wants and not only could they trade him to a team not on his list, but they don’t have to trade him at all as he still has two years under contract.

Holding onto the point guard would nonetheless make for an ugly situation, so it’s in the best interest of the Cavaliers to at least explore trade possibilities, as hard as it may be to swallow giving up a 25-year-old star.

It will also be interesting to learn what the trade market is like for Irving, who is a ball-dominant, one-way player – albeit one of the best offensive forces in the league.

Let’s go through the four teams Irving mentioned and gauge the likelihood of him ending up at each spot. There’s also one team that, despite not being one of Irving’s preferred locations, makes too much sense to ignore.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Such is the level of respect for the Spurs and Gregg Popovich that Irving named on his list of preferred teams.

Adding Irving next to Kawhi Leonard would instantly boost the offence and relieve the former’s burden to create.

Let’s not forget though, this has to be a two-way street with the Spurs wanting Irving as well. While he doesn’t exactly fit their ball movement ethos, San Antonio surely would want the talent upgrade. The cost would likely involve young point guard Dejounte Murray and Danny Green, but they have little else to offer.

ODDS: 2/10

MIAMI HEAT

Irving unsurprisingly would be willing to go to Miami and who could blame him?

He’s a 25-year-old star entering his prime who already has a ring. Plus, he only experienced one year in college at Duke. Why not enjoy the Miami scene off the court, while joining a fairly promising situation on it.

Irving would immediately be the main scoring option with the Heat and just for comedy sakes, it would be fun to see him play with Dion Waiters again.

To reunite them, Miami would probably have to give up Goran Dragic and Justice Winslow, at the very least.

ODDS: 3/10

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

While Minnesota seem like a random team to include on a list of preferred teams, they make sense for Irving.

The point guard is friends with Jimmy Butler and reportedly considered Chicago as a destination before they traded their own star guard.

A lineup featuring Irving, Butler and Towns would be terrifying offensively, even without Andrew Wiggins who ironically would make the most sense for the Cavaliers to target in return, three years after they traded him for Kevin Love.

Jeff Teague would also make sense for both sides, but he just signed his deal so he can’t be traded until December.

ODDS: 3/10

Building bonds: Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving with Team USA. Picture: Getty Images.

Building bonds: Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving with Team USA. Picture: Getty Images.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Being ‘the man’ in New York is different than being ‘the man’ anywhere else. The hub of basketball comes with its own pros and cons, from heightened pressure to succeed, to unparalleled adulation if you turn the franchise around.

The Knicks also feature a budding star in Kristaps Porzingis, who would form a deadly one-two punch with Irving in pick-and-pops. It would certainly make the team exponentially more fun overnight.

It wouldn’t be what they had planned, but after chasing Carmelo Anthony this summer, the Cavaliers would at least get someone they’ve wanted all along.

ODDS: 5/10

PHOENIX SUNS

No, Phoenix wasn’t on Irving’s list of preferable trade partners, but the Cavaliers won’t really care. They’re going to try to extract the most value possible and the Suns fit the profile.

Irving would be swapping one unhappy situation for likely another, but Phoenix have long coveted a star and they would have two years to convince him to re-sign.

Don’t count out the Suns being a facilitator in a three-deal either.

They won’t offer Devin Booker, but they’ll happily part with Eric Bledsoe and a capable wing like T.J. Warren.

ODDS: 5/10

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There's some sense in Kyrie Irving's trade request to leave LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers

Jay Asser 22/07/2017
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Poles apart: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Picture: Getty Images.

Before the world could wait on pins and needles for LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’ vol. 3, Kyrie Irving decided to preemptively press the eject button.

The All-Star point guard’s tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers could be over after he requested a trade last week and according to ESPN, his reasons for wanting to leave are centred on being “more of a focal point” elsewhere as he “no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James”.

Irving has also allegedly made it known to Cleveland the four teams he prefers a trade to: San Antonio, Miami, New York and Minnesota.

James was reportedly “blindsided and disappointed” by the request, while the NBA world was similarly stunned when the news broke on Friday night.

07 23 Kyrie

No one saw this coming, but if you reverse engineer how Irving reached this point, it starts to make more sense.

For starters, the Cavaliers organisation has been a dumpster fire this summer, stemming from the franchise parting ways with general manager David Griffin after the two sides couldn’t agree on a contract extension.

The loss of Griffin may have been overstated as far as team-building, but there’s no doubting he had fostered relationships with players like James and Irving in his three years, which featured a trip to the Finals every season and the team’s first title in 2016.

If nothing else, his presence at least afforded the Cavaliers stability amidst the volatility of owner Dan Gilbert and the questionable future of James.

Even if Gilbert was still around, however, it’s hard to imagine the roster being much better. A bloated payroll has limited the Cavaliers’ ability to add players this offseason as they’ve so far come up empty on Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

The situation just doesn’t seem like it can change much in the near future, at least not for the better.

It can get a whole lot worse though – or more desirable depending on perspective – if James bolts in free agency next summer.

In that case, Irving would once again be the face of the franchise, which he believed he was becoming for the long-term when he signed a five-year extension days before James’ arrival in 2014.

Maybe Irving wants that but doesn’t want to wait another year for the possibility, or maybe he doesn’t want to be a slave to James’ decision and potentially be left out in the cold like Dwyane Wade was.

Irving could very well want to be main man somewhere else, but each of the four teams he named for his preferred new home have at least one star or star in the making.

It’s more likely he just wants to get away from James, who, for all his unworldly talent and skill, has a leadership style that can often rub teammates the wrong way – whether that’s through subtweets, screaming in the huddle, eye rolls or body language.

LeBron casts an undeniably large shadow and for Irving, it may be time to get out in the sun.

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