During the 2017 NBA offseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers became the center of controversy after All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving expressed his desire to be traded somewhere else. Rumors were circulating that Irving no longer wanted to play under the shadow of LeBron James, who replaced him as the Cavaliers’ main man when he returned in 2014.
In August, 2017, the Cavaliers granted Kyrie Irving’s trade request by sending him to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and draft picks. The Cavaliers received quality players in return, but none of them was a good fit with LeBron James. Without Irving, James still carried the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, but they ended up being swept by the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
In a recent appearance on ESPN’s Get Up, Richard Jefferson, who played for the Cavaliers from 2015 to 2017, strongly denied that LeBron James was the main reason why Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. Jefferson revealed that Irving made the trade request after finding out that the Cavaliers included him in a failed three-team blockbuster deal.
“The reason why [Kyrie wanted out] was because there was a trade. That’s why he wanted to leave,” Jefferson said, as transcribed by Cavaliers Nation. “Once he found out that he was on the trading block and a trade almost went through, he was like, ‘I’m gone and I never want to come back here.'”
Kyrie Irving Roasted By Kid at Children's Hospital, Duke Lost! https://t.co/NDLfb6cGRM— TMZ (@TMZ) December 5, 2018
Richard Jefferson was talking about the three-team deal that would have sent Kyrie Irving to the Phoenix Suns. According to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, before sending Irving to the Boston Celtics, the Cavaliers used him as the main trade chip in a blockbuster trade with the Suns and the Indiana Pacers to acquire Paul George and Eric Bledsoe. Unfortunately, the deal didn’t push through after the Suns refused to part ways with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“In mid-June, shortly before [former general manager David] Griffin left, team and league sources confirm, the Cavs explored a three-way deal with Phoenix and Indiana that would have shipped Irving and [Channing] Frye to the Suns and brought Eric Bledsoe and Paul George to Cleveland.”
Pairing LeBron James with Paul George and Eric Bledsoe would have given the Cavaliers a better chance of beating the Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers ended up losing Kyrie Irving for players that were odd fits to their roster. As of now, Irving and James are no longer with the Cavaliers. Irving is still playing for the Celtics, while James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in the recent free agency.