The Road Trippin’ podcast has rolled on during the Cavaliers tumultuous summer, and Richard Jefferson found out about Kyrie Irving’s trade request on the most recent episode, and he had this to say:
“This is what I will say about this, and by the time this gets out, whenever we air this in a few days: I don’t know. I don’t think that there’s a power struggle, like, with LeBron and Kyrie, Kev. I think Kyrie is a hyper-intelligent kid. Really, really smart. Doesn’t get enough credit for how smart he is, and I think seeing that the franchise is in flux, seeing Griff leave, the amount of coaches . . .
I think Kyrie has had a much tougher time in this stretch of the organization than anyone ever wanted to ever really fully- he’s the number one pick right after LeBron, then he has three different coaches, then LeBron comes back, now there’s trade rumors, now its ‘LeBron’s leaving’.
It’s like, at some point in time, anybody would want some sort of stability. Even if it’s the unknown, and I’m not saying - I don’t know if he asked to be traded, I don’t know this. But I will say that he’s had a tougher time if you look at, from start to where we are right now, of the ups and downs of a franchise more than most. Even though we’ve been successful, and even though we’ve won a championship and he’s been an All-Star, there’s still a so much of a wave, and to be like ‘Yo, we’re going to sit here for a whole year on whether or not LeBron’s coming back.’ That’s gotta be tough on anybody, everybody.”
This is rare access from a player, and part of what makes that podcast so amazing. Jefferson makes a strong point in that instability isn’t new for Kyrie Irving - the majority of his experience with the Cleveland Cavaliers has been defined by a lack of consistency and turmoil. He played for organizational disasters early in his career when leadership was thrust on him, and then the circus that comes alongside LeBron James arrival.
It’s easy to criticize Kyrie for wanting to leave a winning situation, but as RJ points out, LeBron’s looming free agency wears on everyone and creates a degree of tension on the roster where people don’t really know what direction the team is going in long-term.
That’s LeBron’s hard-earned right, and part of his leverage to ensure Dan Gilbert continues spending big money on the Cavaliers payroll, but it makes sense that it would wear on his teammates. There’s a degree of conflation with what LeBron has the right to do and the implications of his choices. Even if he’s making the right decision, there’s a natural fallout to whatever he chooses to do. This could be part of that.
In general, this response from Jefferson sort of points to the collection of the reasons why Irving might want to leave. He’s very smart, he’s unbelievably talented, the Cavs have done a terrible job of creating a healthy organizational culture, and LeBron’s free agency is looming over the team’s future.
Those factors create a pretty dangerous cocktail, and it doesn’t take an enormous logical leap to imagine that somebody like Kyrie Irving might want to try to take control of their own destiny as much as they can.
I still don’t entirely understand the timing of the request, as he’s still at the mercy of wherever the Cavaliers send him, but the logic behind wanting to leave gets more and more clear, even if you don’t agree with it.