Appearing on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Monday, David Griffin, who unexpectedly parted ways with the Cavs in June, was asked about former Cleveland guard Ron Harper’s comments. Harper recently said (via the Akron Beacon Journal) that Irving’s desire to be traded away from LeBron James and Co. was born of “youth” and “ignorance,” adding,”When the inmates are in charge, nothing but bad things can happen, right?”
“I think what Ron was saying is really unfair to Kyrie,” Griffin told co-hosts Amin Elhassan and Dave McMenamin. “This is a guy who handled the situation exactly like he was supposed to. He went to [owner] Dan Gilbert privately, told him that he thought he would be happier somewhere else. The absolute worst thing this guy could’ve done was pretend to be all in and sink the ship from within.
“Most guys don’t have the courage to do what he did. That’s not youth and ignorance. That’s a little bit more courage than people give him credit for.”
Irving’s camp is reportedly of the opinion that James himself leaked the news of the trade request, possibly to lower the guard’s value and make it harder for the Cavs to get a worthwhile offer. At the same time, James has been widely rumored to be interested in leaving the Cavs after opting out of his contract in 2018, and Irving’s mind-set could be shaped by a preference to not be subsequently stuck with an asset-poor team built for the strengths of a superstar forward no longer around.
“I think Kyrie is going to end up getting traded,” Griffin said on ESPN. If that’s true, then a video the Cavs released Monday that showed off their new uniforms might be the last time we see the name “Irving” on the back of one.
Noting that Irving signed a contract extension with the Cavs before James returned to the team in 2014, Griffin said the guard “was sold a totally different situation than he’s actually in — and he worked very well in, he won a championship in — and I see this as him looking for a fit for himself to take the next step in his career.”
“LeBron casts a very large shadow over an organization, and most of it is really, really positive,” Griffin added. “You know you’re expected to win a championship, by way of example, but what that doesn’t always allow is for a player like Kyrie to test his boundaries a little bit and see how good he can really be.”
Interestingly, Griffin implied that Irving had named the Celtics as one of his preferred trade destinations, whereas previous reporting had claimed the list included the Spurs (to whom Griffin also referred), Knicks, Heat and Timberwolves. A New Jersey native, Irving was reported to “very badly” want to join New York, but the two sides have had not been able to come to terms, and the Knicks are also trying to figure out what to do with their own disgruntled star, Carmelo Anthony.
The Cavs don’t have to trade Irving, who has three years left on his contract, including a player option for the final year. However, Griffin presumably knows more than most about the thinking in Cleveland’s front office, and to hear him tell it, Irving is more likely than not going to be wearing another team’s jersey this season.
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