First and foremost, I would like to give Kyrie Irving an extremely overdue: thank you. The sports world was limping through the annual dog days of summer, in such desperate need of a story that two fighters doing their best Jeff Ross impressions were getting headlines, then, in swoops Kyrie Irving to give us something to talk about.
So, thank you Kyrie, very considerate.
However, outside of that statement, most of the reaction to Kyrie Irving’s trade request has been negative, and along the lines of: Kyrie Irving is selfish, cocky, and unappreciative.
What I want to do is give Kyrie the benefit of the doubt for a second, and outline why it’s also entirely possible that a Kyrie Irving trade could be great for both the NBA, and Irving himself.
I don’t know if a move will be good or bad for Kyrie’s legacy, or if he will play better on a different team. What I do know, is that I can’t fault his thought process.
I don’t mean his thought process as in, “I can be a star and win championships on my own,” if that’s his thinking, he really is looking at this backwards. I’m referring to the part of him that said: “Maybe I can make a legacy for myself as a really special player, and maybe not, but damned if I don’t try.”
Let’s not kid ourselves, Kyrie could win three more championships with this Cavs team, and in the end, his legacy would be nothing more than a pretty good player, who was on Lebron’s team, when Lebron won a bunch of championships.
We all know (Kyrie included), that playing with Lebron James gives anyone a better chance to win a championship. We also know that being a point guard next to Lebron means limiting yourself. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Lebron is possibly the best decision maker and passer in the league, you’d have to be nuts not to let him run an offense.
So, if Kyrie wants to see how much he is capable of as an all-around floor general, he’s not going to get to test that limit next to Lebron.
But wasn’t Kyrie was the most used player on the Cavs?
I understand he took more shots than Lebron, and had a more than fair usage rate, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the same reason Kevin Love is currently the most underrated player in the league, the things that aren’t measurable.
The ever so slight un-comfortability that comes with playing a style that isn’t quite your own.
Kyrie does not want to be a pure scoring point guard, he has to be, or really, he should be, because that is what best compliments Lebron.
Kyrie is the best perimeter scorer on the Cavs, and Lebron James is a great drive and kick passer, it stands to reason Kyrie Irving should be getting a ton of shots.
Lebron is the guy distributing, scanning the defense, arranging plays, and making decisions, because he’s insanely good at it. But, that is what Kyrie Irving wants to do.
I don’t see that as a guy begging for the spotlight. I see that as a guy who trained his whole life to run offenses, and now wants to see how well he can actually run offenses, now that he has some NBA years under his belt.
Sure, he’ll always be more of a scorer than a distributor, but that’s not unusual in today’s NBA. To me, there is no evidence of Kyrie’s lack of interest, or ability, to be a balanced point guard, at least offensively.
Keep in mind, he steadily increased his assist numbers in each of his first three years in the league. Then Lebron came, and he had to recalibrate his game to best mold with the team.
Plus, Irving still averaged almost six assists last season, playing behind a guy who records nine assists a game. There are only so many passes to be thrown
Now Kyrie thinks that he as the ability to blossom into a more well-rounded player. Not that he IS a full-on superstar, but that he CAN become one.
The last thing Kyrie Irving wants, scratch that, the last thing anyone, ever, doing anything, ever wants, is to look back and wonder how good they could have been, if they just went for it. If they just took a chance on something new.
Since when is it a crime to want you to find out how far your abilities can reach?
I’ll answer that. Since Lebron, Durant, Duncan, Curry, and many, many others created this narrative that if you don’t take less money to join other great players, you don’t really care about winning.
Take this year’s free agency. All we have is stars joining other stars in absurd collages of talent that don’t really fit together.
I see Kyrie Irving’s trade request as a dose of welcome competitive spirit to a sport that is currently less competitive than any decent office softball league.
“Super teams,” for lack of a better phrase, splitting up, is the first step to making the NBA interesting again.
What can we expect if Kyrie gets what he wants?
For argument’s sake, Let’s say Kyrie Irving gets traded somewhere he can be the number one guy. This time next year, in the eyes of a common viewer, he will be talked about as a disappointment, that’s a virtual guarantee.
His stats might be fine, but his team may or may not make the playoffs, and certainly won’t contend for a conference title.
That shouldn’t be a surprise, disappointment, or failure for Kyrie, though.
He’ll need time to practice, experiment, and figure out how to be the best version of Kyrie Irving.
And maybe the best version of Kyrie Irving is the Lebron sidekick, maybe Kyrie isn’t meant to have a team built around him, but there’s only one way to find out.
And It’ll take a little time.
Players don’t go from being good, or great, second options, to flawless go-to-guys on a championship contender, overnight. Experience is not all created equal. It’s not the same when you are a role player, all-star, or THE guy. And Kyrie Irving has never been the guy on a playoff team, so he and his new team will have to try, fail, and do it again.
Which answers a huge question about this trade request, why now? There’s still another year on the contract and the Cavs have championship hopes.
My best guess is he wants to get started on that growing process, and he knows the Cavaliers’ future isn’t bright. Plus, his trade value will never be higher.
When the Cavs lose to the Warriors in next year’s NBA finals, there will be all kinds of stories about how the Cavs’ players aren’t as good as we thought. Things along the lines of, Lebron’s getting old, Kevin Love is getting fat, and Kyrie isn’t a real winner.
Of course, none of it will be true, it will all be a byproduct of the loss.
But right now, Kyrie’s got maximum leverage as well as invaluable youth. Which means time to find himself, and have a team built around him. Starting over, with a new team, at 25 is a lot different than starting over at 27.
Obviously, most of this is in theory. I’m shedding a light on the possible positive motivations behind this seemingly out of the blue decision.
As much as everything I’ve said, it is equally possible that Kyrie Irving is an egotistical brat who doesn’t recognize a good situation when he sees one. I don’t know him.
But, I am personally not ready to label him in that way.
I appreciate the competitiveness of a guy who thinks he has more to offer, and empathize with not wanting look back and wonder what could have been.
More than anything, I appreciate distribution of superstars in the NBA, and with any luck, a Kyrie Irving trade could be the first step to regaining some competitiveness in the NBA.
Featured Image: Sporting News