Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving had his own regarding team building back in 2014, before LeBron James returned to northeast Ohio.
Think back to 2014 before everyone started charting Dan Gilbert’s flight plans to Miami.
The Cavs had just done the unthinkable, winning the NBA lottery for the third time in four years, selecting Kansas sensation Andrew Wiggins. At the onset of free agency, Kyrie Irving signed a max extension to be a part of the Cavaliers through 2019.
The post-LeBron Cavs were finally on the right track. Sure, a championship still seemed light years away, but Irving was trying was trying to close the gap even quicker by recruiting Gordon Hayward, Trevor Ariza and Channie Frye, according to former GM David Griffin, via Amico Hoops.
But then James came home, and the rest is history.
The Cavs nixed their plans to sign those players because it took a maximum contract to sign James. If you’ll recall, the team found help in the Boston Celtics in unloading a ton of a salary to make room for James.
Hayward was certainly the most intriguing name tied to the Cavs back them. It’s worth noting though, that he was a restricted free agent and the Jazz could’ve matched any offer he received.
OK, Irving, Hayward, Wiggins, Ariza and Frye don’t win any championships, but it would’ve been entertaining to watch, but Cleveland doesn’t end its championship drought with LeBron.
The other takeaway from this story is Irving’s lack of interest in playing with James. Maybe I’m using the wrong choice of words. It’s just that the Duke product wasn’t going to bend over backwards to play with LBJ.
When Irving signed his extension with Cleveland, there was no hint of James returning to northeast Ohio. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst even said Irving was “clearly not in love” with the idea of playing with James. And now, Griffin revealed Irving had his own ideas when it came to building a team.
The past has been written and it worked out pretty good for the Cavaliers, with James and Irving going to three NBA Finals and winning the 2016 Larry O’Brien Trophy.
What this story does though is make me yearn for a return to the summer of the 2017, especially with James now playing for the Lakers.
Perhaps if Dan Gilbert had kept Griffin, a more management operation could’ve smoothed things over with Irving and kept him and James co-existing for one more season.
It’d be Irving’s team now and Cleveland would still own one of the top five players in the league, despite losing LeBron.
Sure, Kyrie’s injury history is scary, but all indications are that he’ll return to the court doing Kyrie-esque things.
Perhaps the loyalty me and my Cleveland brethren are blessed and cursed has me looking at last summer with the wrong perspective. But Irving won’t be forgotten in Cleveland sports lore not only for making the biggest shot in the city’s history, but for also for his unwavering commitment in the summer of 2014.
LeBron never gave us that. Kyrie did. Without Kyrie’s pact, does James even return? It’s unlikely.