The news that Kyrie Irving asked Cavaliers management to trade him after the 2016-17 season ended, with a trip to the NBA Finals, by the way, is a bit old now, and the emotion can be removed somewhat.
We hear a lot of local people, media and fans alike, suggest that Irving and LeBron James sit down together and hash out their differences and then play together for this season, take the Cavs to another conference championship, and a possible NBA title.
If it were only that simple.
This is basketball we are talking about, a sports that relies on talent certainly, but also trust and teamwork.
It is difficult to achieve success if four players are pulling in one direction, while the fifth man on the court is looking for something different.
NBA history is full of examples of this.
The Detroit Pistons, led by Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace probably didn’t have the best talent in the league, but they played as one, and won a title.
Heck, the Cavs in 2014-15 had James, Irving, and Kevin Love, but it wasn’t until they dealt for JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov, and moved Dion Waiters, that they started to win.
What happens the first time Irving misses a key shot, or fails to pass to an open teammate, or allows his man to get an easy look?
Of course, his commitment to the team will be questioned, and not only by outsiders, but within the locker room.
It’s that kind of stuff that tears a team apart from the inside, and would make Tyronn Lue’s job extremely difficult.
This is especially true since results have come out saying the players on the roster are taking sides, and the vast majority don’t understand why a player would want to leave a team that has been to three straight Finals.
As for what GM Koby Altman can get in return, he will not get a player as talented as Irving is on offense, so what he has to do is construct a team that will win in a different way.
He can get a point guard who is a better defender and better playmaker than Irving. Remember how James and Matthew Dellavedova would play off of each other? Maybe you can get someone who can do that in the deal.
You also can create a deeper roster, one that will play better with James off of the floor, which would in turn allow #23 to play less minutes.
Less minutes during the regular season would mean a fresher LeBron in the playoffs, and we all know he can control a game by himself.
A better defender means you don’t have to score as many points to win games, and some of the scoring slack can be picked up by Love, Smith (who had a tough season with injuries a year ago), and newcomer Derrick Rose.
A deeper bench means you won’t have the drought that Cleveland had in the Finals, where when James came out of the game, leads vanished quicker than our money at the Jack Casino.
Moving Irving is Altman’s best chance to reshape the Cavs’ roster, giving the team a better chance to compete at a championship level for the next three to four years, assuming James stays on the roster.
Right now, there is a lot of age on the team, and a deal would allow the wine and gold to get younger and more athletic.
However, it would take more than a meeting of the minds for Kyrie Irving to stay in Cleveland. The trust is gone, and that would be difficult to repair.