It’s Friday at 1:00pm; I have been back now for one whole week of work, and things are crazy since I was gone the week before at the Las Vegas Summer League. Since I’ve been working so hard, I decide to I treat myself to a nice big lunch. Just as I’m about to sit down and hammer out my thoughts on the Lonzo Ball phenomenon…
News breaks out of Cleveland. Something that we all did not seem coming. Kyrie Irving, winner of one NBA Final and a participant in two others, has decided that he wants out so he can carve out his own legacy in a different market.
What the hell?!
My work day is basically shot. It’s difficult to concentrate because now I feel the need to be on Twitter monitoring the situation, as if a trade is suddenly going to break out and the NBA is going to be turned upside down. Shortly after, I realize something like this takes a lot of time to work its way through…nd then, I become a little angry. I am a big LeBron fan. I consider him to be one of the top two players ever.
- Doesn’t Kyrie know how good he has it?
- How dare he leave the side of one of the most generational (yes, it’s a word, at least in my eyes) players ever in this league?
- Is he spoiled?
- Is he crazy?
- WHAT IS HE THINKING?”
In a time when Superstars are banding together to win titles, why would someone want to go out on their own and just make it that much harder?
So what happened? Why does this player, who has quite possibly the sweetest handle in the entire league and possibly ever, want to leave a situation where he is almost guaranteed to be in the finals for the fourth year in a row? The bigger question; is this a Kyrie issue, or a LeBron issue?
First let’s look at Irving
A first overall pick in 2011, Irving was tasked to rebuild the franchise after LeBron James had left the first time. Kyrie was not left with much of a supporting cast, but because there was no one else there, he had an opportunity to put his stamp on everything. However, as we saw, the franchise never really did much in his first 3 seasons, and the team never sniffed the postseason. His status as Top Banana was secured, but he hadn’t really achieved Superstar status.
In 2014, he signed an extension with the team, but 11 days later, LeBron decided he wanted to come home. We don’t know exactly what Kyrie’s thoughts were at that time, but he had to realize at that point he would be the sidekick.
So put yourself in Kyrie’s mindset: You, your entire life, have been the alpha dog on your team. Now, someone else is coming in, and you have to step aside. How does someone adjust to that mentality, when the entire world has catered around you being the man for your entire life?
Am I sympathetic? A little. I can understand that’s a tough switch for the mind and ego.
As we discovered early on in the process, similar to Miami, the Superstars had to find a way to fit in with each other. For good portion of the beginning, Irving’s game significantly changed, as he was unsure what to do. As time-worn on, LeBron handled the ball more and more, and Kyrie became a shooting guard in the offense.
But, ultimately everything prevailed, as three straight trips to the finals and one ring proved that the arrangement was a success. There were times that Kyrie was a bit invisible during playoff stretches… and there were times when Kyrie took over and won games for Cleveland. He will forever live in lore with his Game 7 - 2016 NBA Finals dagger over Steph Curry’s outstretched hands.
So Kyrie has proved he can still be a Superstar in this role. But it’s clear the shine has been taken off him a bit, as he’s lost some of the luster that he had when he first came into the league.
Now let’s look at the King
LeBron’s move to Cleveland was shifting in so many ways:
- for the Cavaliers
- for the Eastern Conference
- for the NBA
- and for his legacy overall
Simply put, he had to bring a title to Cleveland to truly get into the G.O.A.T. conversation.
Three years in, I think we can all agree that it has been a successful run. There’s zero shame losing twice in the finals to arguably some of the greatest teams in the history of the league.
When LeBron announced his return home, it was clear he was only coming back if he could control as many situations as possible. And can you blame him? Dan Gilbert has shown to be a trainwreck for a good portion of his ownership. Having LeBron involved in decisions would seem like a way to go, considering the amount of influence he has among his players and peers. While it’s said he does not directly influence moves, you have to feel that every decision is made on how LeBron feels.
However, this offseason has shown that Gilbert has perhaps steered away from the philosophy. His failure to extend / re-sign David Griffin forced the GM out of the franchise, a move that was reportedly frowned upon by Lebron. This was at a key time where other teams were getting better by trade or free agency, leaving the Cavs to sign such luminaries like Jose Calderon, who hasn’t been effective since he starred for the 6 / #WeTheNorth.
For the first time, we are seeing a situation where not everyone is flocking to be a member of The King’s Court. Jimmy Butler was offered a chance to move to Ohio, but expressed his preference to stay in Illinois (and was then promptly shipped to Minnesota in a draft day deal). There were no other major signings in free agency (with the possible exception of Derrick Rose coming in), although the Cavs had zero cap room to work with.
We have yet to hear anyone talk badly, ever, about playing with LeBron, and he’s had plenty of teammates over his 14 year career. Kobe did his best to piss off as many teammates as possible as he wound down his career. Melo had both supporters and detractors. But LeBron, until now, has always been spoken about in the highest regard, whether you were a star or a sub.
Has his influence and preferential treatment finally gone too far? It would appear so, as Irving longs for the same treasure that the King demands.
What Kyrie may not realize, or is too delusional to do so, is that he, as good as he is, is NOT the generational talent that LeBron is. That’s why James gets what he gets. Irving is an All-Star, but he not an All-Time.
This is the end for Cleveland. Yes, they could probably still win the watered down East, but it’s clear that this Finals run is in the 4th quarter. The clock is winding down on an amazing stretch for Believeland.
From now on, every time I go for a lunch on a Friday afternoon, I’ll be checking for another big announcement. I doubt that anything that happens now will top the time Kyrie went Krazy and changed the landscape of the NBA.