Chauncey Billups did the unexpected this month when he pulled out of the running for a chance to oversee the Cavaliers’ basketball operations. That was an indication of turmoil in Cleveland, but it was nothing compared to the bombshell news last week that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded.
To Billups, though, word of Irving’s unhappiness came as no shock. In a story published Tuesday by ESPN, the former NBA Finals MVP said he learned of the point guard’s discontent while doing his “due diligence” on the Cavs.
“I knew as [the Cavs] were doing their due diligence on me I was doing the same thing on them,” Billups, who has been working as an ESPN basketball analyst, said on Denver’s Altitude Sports 950. He met with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert following the team’s decision to part ways with general manager David Griffin, and Billups was thought to be the clear front-runner for an executive position.
Even Ice Cube, whose BIG3 league features Billups as a player, said in June that the 17-year NBA veteran “took that job.” At the time he backed out, Billups said in a statement that “the timing just isn’t right to delve into that role in Cleveland,” but on Tuesday, he made it clear that he had taken into account the uncertain future of the team.
“I knew so much about the situation that the rest of the world doesn’t know,” Bilups said. He added that Irving’s trade request “didn’t surprise” him, but he said it was “unfortunate.”
Calling Irving “a special talent,” Billups noted, “So much of what he’s been able to accomplish on and off the floor has been as the beneficiary of having LeBron James.”
Before the Irving news, NBA circles were abuzz with speculation, if not outright expectation, that James would opt out of his Cavs contract next summer and defect to another team, possibly the Lakers. Billups, of course, didn’t need to do any particular due diligence to learn of those rumors, but he said James’s possible departure was not a major factor in him passing up an opportunity to run the Cavs.
“What bothered me more than if LeBron left or not was that I didn’t think they had great assets if you have to do a rebuild,” he said. It’s possible that Irving came to the same conclusion, and decided to beat James out the door, but Billups said he didn’t “get” the guard’s desire to leave.
“Maybe he wants to be Russell Westbrook and go try to win the MVP and get all the shots,” Billups told the Denver station. “That’s the only sense I can make of it, and to me that doesn’t make sense.”
For his part, James used Twitter on Tuesday to decry a pair of reports about his supposed ire at Irving. He described as “#NotFacts” stories claiming that he was “eager” to see Irving gone and that, as Stephen A. Smith told it, he would like to ‘beat’ his teammate’s ‘a–.’
Meanwhile, Irving also was a focus on social media Tuesday, as some noted that he apparently unfollowed James on Instagram. Sure you don’t regret passing on the Cleveland job, Chauncey?