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LeBron James says he called Cavaliers to ask them not to trade Kyrie Irving

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Well, that’s that, then.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been plenty of speculation that LeBron James had communicated to the Cleveland Cavaliers that he didn’t want the team to trade Kyrie Irving. James finally confirmed that in a discussion with Rachel Nichols.

Via ESPN:

It has been widely reported that James was against the Cavs’ decision to acquiesce to Kyrie Irving’s trade request. For the first time publicly, James told Nichols that he did call management to ask them not to trade Irving.

”Even if you start back to the summertime where I felt like it was just bad for our franchise just to be able to trade away our superstar point guard,” James said. “A guy that I had been in so many battles with over the last three years and obviously I wasn’t a part of the communications and know exactly what went on between the two sides. But I just felt like it was bad timing for our team.”

This isn’t ultimately particularly groundbreaking, but it is the first time James has acknowledged publicly that he didn’t want the team to trade the All-Star point guard that hit the championship-winning three in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It is interesting to see that the Cavaliers have mostly taken such leaks on the chin. We know things were more tense than they appeared between LeBron and Kyrie (see: Jason Lloyd’s “fraternizing with the enemy” piece on Irving’s eventual departure) and that Irving was chafing at playing alongside such an all-encompassing star.

The Cavaliers gain nothing but protecting pride by mentioning LeBron’s role in the departure, but for such a dysfunctional organization that has so often failed at interpersonal politics, it’s been the right strategy to take. They certainly didn’t need to trade Irving, and James probably did call to tell them not to deal him, but the relationship wasn’t right, and we know that to be the case.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who caused what at the end. This is a messaging game and an ego game at this point, and the Cavaliers will have to play things perfectly if they want to keep the King in town.