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Report: Kyrie Irving thought LeBron James wanted him out of Cleveland

Alex Reimer
January 03, 2018 - 2:05 pm

Kyrie Irving did not expound on his relationship with LeBron James in the weeks following his arrival in Boston. Instead, Irving spoke about his desire to play on his own and grow as a leader. Through subtle hints, it was apparent Irving felt like he needed to break away from James in order to form his own identity. 

But occasionally, there were revelations that signaled acrimonious relations between the two, such as when Irving revealed he didn’t seek James’ approval before requesting a trade. That might be because Irving thinks James wanted to get him out of Cleveland sooner.

In an ESPN feature story, Hall of Fame basketball writer Jackie MacMullan details Irving’s final months in Cleveland, which featured little direct communication with James. Perhaps the most telling quote in the whole piece is attributed to Irving, who says he requested to be traded last summer because the Cavaliers “didn’t want” him there. Prior to the Celtics deal, Cleveland had apparently agreed to a three-team trade with the Pacers and Suns that would have garnered them Paul George and Eric Bledsoe in exchange for Irving. The trade talks died when general manager David Griffin was ousted –– against James’ wishes, by the way –– but Irving was convinced James was behind it. 

“No formal offer was made by any of the teams, but 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,” MacMullan reports.

Irving appeared to view James as condescending, too. According to MacMullan, Irvin thought James’ habit of referring to Irving as “the kid” and “brother” was a subtle sign of disrespect. 

While Irving tells MacMullan playing with James had its “positives,” he implies that he was always searching for his place on the team. MacMullan outlines one contentious exchange with head coach Tyronn Lue during practice last year that illustrates Irving’s frustration.

“Ky,” Lue said, “I want you to play a little faster.”


“Why?” Irving asked.


“Because if we play faster, we get shots off easier.”


“I don’t need to play faster to get my shot off,” Irving replied. “I can do that anytime.”


“I’m not talking about your shot. I’m talking about RJ and JR,” Lue said, citing teammates Richard Jefferson and Smith.


“Well, that’s No. 23’s job,” Irving replied, referring to James.

Given how Irving has flourished in Boston, it seems as if getting away from Cleveland was the right move for him. And with Isaiah Thomas back in the lineup, the Cavaliers seem destined to make an ardent run at defending their Eastern Conference crown.

The Irving-James saga will likely come up many more times in between Tuesday’s showdown at the Garden and a potential rematch in May. 

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