Well, then. Smith may be dismissed by some sports fans as an insufferable blowhard, but he has long been well-connected in NBA circles, so his claims are worth noting. If Cleveland’s acquisition of Derrick Rose didn’t represent a major signal that the team is ready to part ways with Irving, Smith’s report from “sources” close to James would seem to strongly indicate that the Cavs’ fruitful pairing is soon to end.
Smith claimed that James’s “beef” with Irving “has nothing to do with Kyrie wanting to be traded,” but is about James being “upset that Kyrie has made him a subject to be broached with regard to Kyrie’s desire to move out.” James was said to understand Irving’s desire to seek “greener pastures” elsewhere, but was vexed that his name was “being raked through the coals,” as if he were a “difficult teammate” or a “prima donna.”
Smith had previously reported that Irving and his confidants were angry at James for what they saw as his role in leaking the explosive news about the 25-year-old point guard. On Monday, Smith said, “Kyrie Irving’s camp is ticked off because they had this meeting with Cleveland Cavaliers management weeks ago,” adding that their feeling was that James, out of spite, had made it much more difficult for the Cavs to help move Irving to another team.
However the news got out, the rest of the league now knows that Cleveland essentially must deal Irving away, lowering his trade value and putting the Cavs in a difficult position. Smith said that the situation with the team had become “more nuclear,” thus intensifying the “importance” of shipping out Irving.
Unlike the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal divorce, in which the Lakers opted to keep the younger guard, Smith noted that James has a no-trade clause he intends to invoke, meaning that the Cavs have little choice but to stick with him. Irving doesn’t have that leverage, but according to reports, he named as his “preferred destinations” the Spurs, Heat, Knicks and Timberwolves.
Smith said that after refusing to take back Ryan Anderson’s contract in a proposed trade of Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets, New York might be trying to send the disgruntled Anthony to Cleveland, one of his own preferred destinations. However, the ESPN pundit noted, the Knicks would have to include “additional pieces” in an Anthony-Irving swap.
None other than NBA Commissioner Adam Silver weighed in on the Cavs’ mess, saying Monday, “I feel bad for whatever is going on in Cleveland.” Speaking on “The Rich Eisen Show,” Silver added, “It’s upsetting when you see superstar players who have coexisted and have had so much success together — three Finals in a row and one championship — to hear that, for whatever reason, there is a sense that they can’t continue to coexist.
“Yeah, that’s drama. But it’s not necessarily the kind of drama that the league wants.”
As for the origins of Irving’s dissatisfaction with James, Smith pointed out that the former had signed a five-year contract extension with the Cavs, assuming he’d be the face of the franchise, shortly before the latter’s unexpected return to Cleveland. “So Kyrie was salty from that moment,” Smith said.
Citing sources, Smith claimed that James “has tried to appease [Irving] at every turn,” but then he went on to offer the “beat his a—” tidbit. That might not make for Silver’s favorite sort of “drama,” but for many fans of the NBA, Cleveland’s soap opera has turned into riveting theater.