The request came last week and was made to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Irving has expressed that he wants to play in a situation where he can be more of a focal point and that he no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James, sources said.
Among several possibilities discussed in Irving’s meeting with the Cavaliers, the San Antonio Spurs were raised as a preferred destination, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Other teams Irving said he’d be willing to join were the New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources told ESPN.
Irving’s agent, Jeff Wechsler, would not confirm or deny whether the point guard asked for a trade.
“Kyrie and I had a meeting with Cavs leadership where we discussed many different scenarios in reference to Kyrie and his future with the team,” Wechsler told Wojnarowski. “The basis of those discussions and what went on in those discussions are between the Cavs and us. We are respectfully going to keep those private.”
Sources told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that the Cavaliers were disturbed that Irving’s request was made public, believing it could impact his trade value.
The Cavaliers parted with general manager David Griffin last month after they couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension. Cleveland has yet to name Griffin’s replacement and James, the franchise centerpiece, has reportedly expressed concern about the team’s direction.
James was informed of Irving’s request and was blindsided and disappointed, sources said. Irving did talk about the meeting to several other teammates, a league source told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
News of the request comes days after Irving told Sports Illustrated that the Cavaliers were in a “very peculiar” place this offseason.
“We just have to, you know, make sure that all our pieces are aligned first, and then we go from there,” Irving told the magazine. “It’s the summertime, a lot of craziness going on in the NBA.”
Irving, 25, has been with the Cavaliers since they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. After Irving and the Cavs mired through three losing seasons, their fortunes changed when James returned. The Big Three of James, Irving and Kevin Love has reached the past three NBA Finals, winning the title in 2016.
Love appeared to allude to Irving’s request in a tweet Friday, saying “Things are a little peculiar.”
Life is amazing. No complaints. Things are a little peculiar. But no complaints. Now go kick some rocks 🙌🏼 https://t.co/Tz62YyGeYt
— Kevin Love (@kevinlove) July 21, 2017
How to handle Irving’s situation is complex for the Cavs, as James can be a free agent next summer. Irving has three years and $ 60 million left on his contract, but he can opt out of the final year before the 2019-20 season.
By asking for a trade, Irving would be willingly giving up the chance to qualify for and sign a “supermax” contract with the Cavs in 2019. This provision, installed in the just-started collective bargaining agreement, was meant to deter star players from leaving their teams as they came up on their third contract. This is when numerous stars want to move, as has played out with Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward and Paul George.
Irving’s contract contains a 15 percent trade bonus that would pay him an additional $ 2.9 million in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
After winning the Eastern Conference title in May, Irving described his closeness with James and how staying together can benefit them.
“When you get to that level of trust and you allow someone to come into a friendship that extends well off the court,” Irving said, “and you understand how great this era can be if we are selfless to the point where we don’t think about anything else except for the greatness of our team and what we can accomplish.”
Irving had a good relationship with Griffin, who was a point man in selling Irving on a five-year contract extension in 2014 even though the team was coming off four consecutive losing seasons.
Griffin understood that Irving’s desires for his career had to be managed and worked regularly to challenge Irving and, at times, soothe him. Coach Tyronn Lue is also a strong supporter of Irving and has been a strong defender when Irving’s game — which is sometimes more shoot-first than pass-first for a point guard — has come under criticism.
When Irving signed his deal, he expected to be the franchise player for the foreseeable future. But about two weeks later, James arrived from Miami. The sudden change of situation rocked Irving, and he has vacillated at times over the past three years about working as a secondary star to James and the original plan of having his own team.
He discussed the challenge during last month’s NBA Finals.
“Having just a tremendously great player like that come to your team, and you see yourself being one of those great players eventually, and then he ends up joining it and then now you have to almost take a step back and observe,” Irving said. “Finding that balance is one of the toughest things to do because you have so much belief and confidence in yourself. … Selfishly, I always wanted to just show everyone in the whole entire world exactly who I was every single time.”
With this in mind, Irving considered requesting a trade after the Cavs’ championship last season but decided against it, sources said.
Irving, a four-time All-Star, has averaged 21.6 points and 5.6 assists per game for his career. Last season, he averaged a career-high 25.2 points to go with 5.8 assists per game while shooting 40.1 percent on 3-pointers.
However, Irving has not excelled when playing without James. Last season, the Cavs were outscored by 90 points in 574 minutes when Irving played and James didn’t. In the playoffs, they were outscored by 30 points in 61 minutes. In the Finals against the Golden State Warriors, the Cavs were outscored 37-13 when Irving was on the court and James was off.