The Phoenix Suns have been consistently linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Kyrie Irving trade rumors since Irving’s request was made public, and Pablo Torre of ESPN said that LeBron James is inserting himself into negotiations.
“LeBron James is doing some LeBron James offseason work. And my understanding is it’s not just Derrick Rose, it’s not just Eric Bledsoe. LeBron James happens to know a guy named James Jones . . . LeBron James is hustling behind the scenes, is my understanding, asking ‘Is Josh Jackson available for Kyrie Irving?’ And the answer back that I heard is ‘no, he is not.’ But LeBron James is hustling on behalf of the Cleveland Cavaliers, at least for this one year.”
Now, this is absolutely fascinating, and something that has sort of slipped past the media climate. New Suns vice president of basketball operations James Jones should be very familiar to Cavaliers fans as he has been on the end of the bench for the past three seasons wearing wine and gold. He also happens to be one of LeBron’s best friend’s in the league.
As we’ve seen in the past, relationships are hugely important in negotiating deals, whether it’s Gordon Hayward citing his closeness to Brad Stevens or Kevin McHale shipping Kevin Garnett to Danny Ainge’s Celtics squad. Jones could make for a willing trade partner, especially if LeBron is angling personally. That said, we’re not really sure of Phoenix’s new corporate structure, but Jones title certainly traditionally carries a ton of weight.
Jones has an intimate knowledge of Irving. He knows all of his strengths and all of his warts. There’s almost certainly no executive in the league that is better equipped to analyze somebody like Irving’s on-court value. His opinion of Irving’s game will carry a lot of weight in figuring out how much the Suns would give up in exchange for him.
For now, that doesn’t include Josh Jackson, it seems.
That doesn’t mean this is a death knell. David Blatt famously said that the Cavaliers weren’t trading Andrew Wiggins, and, if you can believe it, they did with very little hesitation when it meant they could bring in Kevin Love.
From a LeBron James perspective, this is more evidence that he really still has a high degree of buy-in for this upcoming season. There’s nothing but upside for him to make sure the Cavaliers are as good as they can possibly be next season, even if he is considering leaving. Even so, he could disengage and few would blame him given the tire fire that Cleveland’s offseason has been, and he seems to really be plugged in still.