Why commit to a team coming off a 30-win season that was building around Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett? At the time, that’s what Irving was signing up for.
When LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland in 2014, it felt as though the stars had all aligned. The Cavs had Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, and several other young players that they could build a contender around. Looking back, it all seems like destiny.
Two weeks before that announcement, it felt like the Cavs would be starting from scratch. We went to bed on the night of June 30 thinking Kyrie Irving would entertain offers from other teams. The Cavs had been a train wreck for most of Irving’s time with the team. There was yet another new coach, Irving had clashed with Dion Waiters, and there had been no indication from Irving’s camp that he intended to come back.
Then, at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, the Cavs announced that Irving would sign a max extension. Looking back, it seems like a logical move. But, assuming, as they all claim, that nobody had any idea LeBron was coming back at that point, I feel compelled to ask: Why did he do that?
We know now that Kyrie is a flake, and trying to find any logic behind his choices or statements is a losing battle. We also know that he firmly believes he can lead a team to a championship. Did he believe that in 2014? There’s no way to know. What we do know is that, with the facts available to him on June 30, 2014, it would have been an extreme leap of faith for Irving to think he could win a title in Cleveland.
This is the guy who just said the Nets’ current roster had “glaring holes.” That was a reference to guys like Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, who are probably better than anyone on that Cavs’ team except Tristan Thompson unless you own a condo on Waiters Island. If the current Nets’ roster has holes, the 2014 Cavs had canyons. He had just been through a season where he was joined int he starting lineup on many occasions by Alonzo Gee and Earl Clark. Would you commit the prime of your career to a team that had drafted Anthony Bennett the year before?
Kyrie signed without meeting with other teams or finding out what other moves the Cavs might be making. Had he even met Wiggins, who had been drafted first overall the previous week, to see if they would get along better than Irving and Waiters? What about with David Blatt, who had been hired as the new head coach a few days before Wiggins was drafted?
The Heat dynasty that LeBron had sparked looked like it was running on fumes after getting blown out in the Finals by the Spurs. There wasn’t enough shooting or athleticism on the roster, and there were few options to add talent. The Big 3 – James, Wade, and Bosh – were all free agents. They seemed inclined to maneuver their contracts in whatever way was necessary to help the team add talent, but there were limits to their kindness. Even a hamstrung Heat roster, though, seemed better equipped to win the East for the next several years than anyone else.
Zach Lowe, who is much better at figuring this stuff out than me, or Kyrie for that matter, looked at LeBron’s options a few days before all of this went down and decided that him going anywhere but Miami was a pipe dream and didn’t even list the Cavs as a prime contender. The thought was that LeBron wanted to go to a roster that could contend right away, and, even with their young talent, the Cavs were thought to be a few years away, even if LeBron came back.
As the first week of July passed, there were indications that James, Wade, and Bosh were not as willing to stick together as we originally thought. There were rumors of a secret Dan Gilbert flight to Florida, and other wild bits of gossip that fit whatever conspiracy theory. But when Kyrie made his choice, he didn’t know any of that. Or did he?
Maybe the world is flat, after all.