Admittedly, it was foolish of me to assume yesterday was going to be a nice quiet day in Cleveland sports. Sure, the Cleveland Indians were back home and trying to snap their streak of losing to last place teams. Still, with the summer Northeast Ohio sports fans have been enduring, expecting a day without chaos was pretty irrational.
At least that’s how I reacted upon hearing the stunning development regarding Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As if an offseason featuring owner Dan Gilbert letting GM David Griffin walk, getting stood up by Chauncey Billups and dealing with another round of “LeBron James is leaving” rumors wasn’t enough, now the team’s star point guard has reportedly requested a trade.
So, yeah, the Cavs’ summer vacation has been just lovely.
The fallout from yesterday’s news has been intense. Fans who cherished Irving for hitting the most important shot in team history to win the 2016 NBA Championship are now raking him over the coals for what appears to be a self-centered request. Many find it mind-blowing he’d center his trade demand around the fact he no longer wants to play alongside James. On top of this, Irving giving Cleveland’s front office a list of preferred destinations while still being under contract for two more years has been almost unanimously deemed as laughable.
Amidst the panic-laden reactions to this news is a frequently asked question – should the Cavs even trade Irving?
He has no leverage in these demands, so Cleveland could refuse to move him and he’d still have to suit up for the team next year. Should the team not receive any fair offers around the league, the temptation to do so may start to increase.
If you ask me, I’d advise the Cavs to avoid this scenario at all costs. While losing a talent of Irving’s caliber is a tough pill to swallow, too much damage has been done in the past 24 hours. Barring a significant shift in this narrative, keeping Irving would be a recipe for disaster.
Believe me, writing those words wasn’t easy. Irving was seen by many as the next great Cavalier upon his being drafted in 2011. After James had fled to South Beach, Cleveland fans quickly attached themselves to the young point guard, seeing in him a reason to hope for brighter days ahead.
Likewise, he appeared to be a perfect complement for James when the superstar made his return to the Cavs. Irving’s shot over Steph Curry in the waning seconds of Game 7 last summer is easily one of the most iconic moments in Cleveland sports history.
Despite all of this, the Cavs keeping him in spite of his demands to be shipped elsewhere should be viewed as a worst-case scenario.
Part of this is due to the reasoning behind Irving’s request. If his issue is no longer wanting to be in James’ shadow, this won’t be going anywhere come next season. The Cavs are hardly going to prioritize Irving over the greatest NBA player of our generation, so his demands to be the focal point of the team were likely politely laughed off.
Keeping Irving would also lead to a PR nightmare for Cleveland. There’s a 0% chance he wouldn’t be asked about his trade request and playing alongside James all season long. This would undoubtedly only fuel the issue, likely leading to a toxic locker room situation. Additionally, James has reportedly chosen to stay out of this mess, meaning he’s probably not going to try and clear the air with Irving any time soon.
A big reason why trading Irving should be a necessity, though, is the fact Cleveland has the upper hand here.
Irving doesn’t have any sort of no-trade clauses in his contract, which means his giving the Cavs a list of preferred teams is essentially worthless. The team wouldn’t have to accept a weak deal from one of his picks simply because he could reject being traded elsewhere. Instead, Cleveland can take the best offer it receives regardless of which team is proposing it.
This last bit is huge, as it could go a long way in ensuring the Cavs aren’t left in shambles after losing Irving. Provided the team can get great returns – yes, this summer implies that could be a reach – it wouldn’t be all doom and gloom for Cleveland.
Unfortunately, though, there doesn’t appear to be a scenario where keeping Irving is seen as a win. The initial report itself has already created quite a mess, so the Cavs denying his demands would only make things worse.
It’ll be an incredibly tough day in Cleveland sports, but in the end, a trade of Irving has quickly become the preferred outcome in all of this.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook