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Irving speculation speeds up impending implosion of Cavs

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

July 24, 2017 10:04 AM
Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland. The All-Star point guard averaged 29.4 points in the five-game NBA Finals loss to Golden State. He prefers to be traded to San Antonio, New York, Miami or Minnesota.
© USA Today Sports Images

Next summer, the drama will be all about LeBron James. Yet why wait a year? His sidekick has decided to quick-trigger the impending implosion of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving wants out now, and the point guard’s surprising trade request has left James — for those who follow Instagram and believe unnamed sources — feeling betrayed and blindsided while he walks into an uncertain future with a heavy heart.

In terms of a soap opera, it’s tough to top the NBA these days. Just when offseason activity seemed to be slowing down, Irving and James are cranking up the histrionics.

From the front office to the superstars on the floor, the Cavaliers are headed in the direction of dysfunction. The James-Irving-Kevin Love superteam era appears on the brink of a breakup, which could spur the rise of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s like trying to figure out a spider web. There are a million ways to go,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “I would think Irving would be traded before the start of the season, and that would change a lot of things. We have to wait and see what happens.”

At the South Point sports book, Cleveland is a minus-140 favorite to win the East in the 2017-18 season, with Boston at 3-1 odds and Washington at 8-1. The Westgate has lowered the Cavaliers from minus-200 to minus-175 to win the conference, with the Celtics at 5-2.

When the smoke finally clears, Sherman said he expects Cleveland to remain at least a small favorite in the East. Still, it’s difficult for oddsmakers to make many adjustments without knowing James’ supporting cast.

James will become a free agent next summer, leading to speculation he could ditch the Cavaliers a second time and possibly move to Los Angeles. Irving, who has two years remaining on his contract, might be making a preemptive strike by requesting a trade. With the mission accomplished in Cleveland — winning the NBA championship in 2016 — maybe it’s time to move on. Irving is just trying to beat James to the exit.

Never underestimate the egos of superstars, either. It’s logical to assume Irving is tiring of being a supporting actor in James’ shadow and wants to lead his own team.

According to reports, Irving told the Cavaliers he prefers to be dealt to San Antonio, New York, Miami or Minnesota. But he cannot dictate where he goes, so the trade leverage belongs with Cleveland. Irving, 25, is a dynamic playmaker who averaged 29.4 points in the five-game NBA Finals loss to Golden State.

The Knicks are interested in Irving, and they could send Carmelo Anthony and draft picks to Cleveland. It’s doubtful the Knicks would part with Kristaps Porzingis.

Rumors of multi-team trades are surfacing, but working out the details will be complex. Phoenix, which has point guard Eric Bledsoe to offer, has been mentioned as a potential trade partner for Cleveland. Minnesota could deal point guard Jeff Teague, but since Teague just signed as a free agent, league rules prohibit him from being traded until Dec. 15.

Anthony has expressed interest in joining James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston. In Anthony’s situation, would he be leery of going to Cleveland while knowing it’s possible James could leave next summer?

“I don’t like what I’ve heard about putting Carmelo in Cleveland. That’s just garbage,” Sherman said. “But from I’m hearing, Carmelo is more geared toward Houston than Cleveland.

“There’s probably at least 20 teams that have called Cleveland about this. It’s speculation on everyone’s part. There’s a chance Irving doesn’t get traded. There are a lot of angles to this.”

The bottom line is the Cavaliers’ firepower would be reduced without Irving, so these breaking rumors are good news for the Celtics and the rest of the East.

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