Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland more than out of LeBron’s shadow

Don't let Kyrie Irving's one-track minded, 'what teammates?', offensive approach to the game of basketball fool you, he's very aware of what's going on around him.

Like the rest of us, Irving's heard the speculation of LeBron James' departure from Cleveland, but instead of sticking around 'The Land' to see what the aftermath looks like, he decided to stick a shipping label on himself and request a trade.

Reports are that Irving wants to play in San Antonio but will also go to Miami, Minnesota, or New York. Two of the four potential destinations, San Antonio and Minnesota, leave room to question whether Irving's reason for wanting to switch teams – wanting to be more of a focal point and not James' sidekick – is nothing more than a cop out. If there's any team that prides itself on ball movement and not relying on one player, it's the San Antonio Spurs. And if anyone is going to be the focal point of that team, it's Kawhi Leonard. Alternatively, the Timberwolves have two players, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, that would be focal points over Irving. Even the Knicks have been trying to deal Carmelo Anthony in part to begin building around Kristaps Porzingis. They'd be foolish not to pursue a deal for Irving, but are we sure he'd be the top option?

It may be true that Irving wants a bigger role, but the truth of why he demanded a trade is because he doesn't want that role to be in Cleveland. If it was as simple as getting his own team, he could've waited another season for James to leave. He would've gotten his old team back, been eligible for more money than anywhere else, and he could've competed for another championship in the meantime. But this isn't about James – this is about Irving getting the hell out of dysfunctional Cleveland without having Cavs fans turn on him.

New York and Miami give Irving the best chance to get from under a shadow (that may not even exist) and lead his own team, but he may not lead them very far. While experience and growth makes him a better player than he was for the three years before James returned to Cleveland, he's not a very different player. He's demonstrated the ability to single-handedly take games over on offense, but his game is too flawed to win consistently outside of the perfect team scenario. At some point he has to get teammates involved and show better situational awareness, and at some point he has to start playing defense. Otherwise, having a LeBron James to chase down blocks on one end of the floor and prevent defensive traps on the other end so he can hit the go-ahead three pointer in the deciding game of the NBA Finals may be as good as it gets.


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