Kyrie Irving asked for Kobe Bryant’s advice when Cavs, Suns talked trade
Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics couldn’t be much better of a match.
As of now, it appears the Celtics won the trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers that swapped packages centered around Irving and point guard Isaiah Thomas. But before that went down, the Phoenix Suns were speaking with the Cavs and the Indiana Pacers about a three-team deal that would have sent Irving to Phoenix, and Paul George and Eric Bledsoe to Cleveland.
Months later, Irving revealed to Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps that he gave one of the Suns’ long-time villains a call to discuss what a relocation to a rebuilding team would mean for him.
“He was one of the guys that I reached out to,” Irving told Bontemps. “Not necessarily to gauge his thoughts on the decision, or to give me the okay, but it was for some clarity and also what the next steps going forward [would be].
“Because there was some chance I was going to maybe be in Phoenix, or maybe in situations where the environment hadn’t been winning for a while, and Kobe dealt with that in 2005-06, and that was tough. So I had to ask him, and gauge him about that.”
The overarching theme from the talk with Bryant: Irving could control his own future.
The details between their talks are parsed out in Bontemps’ story, but for Phoenix fans, one sentence from the author probably stands out the most.
And Irving would have left a team with a chance at a fourth straight NBA Finals for one trying to get back to respectability.
Of course, the Suns trade never went through.
According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Phoenix did not want to lose the fourth overall pick, which it used to draft Josh Jackson. Adding to the Suns’ apprehension: Irving’s contract only runs through the 2018-19 season and has a player option for 2019-20.
Soon after the Suns discussed the trade idea with Cleveland, the Cavaliers parted ways with general manager David Griffin, who MacMullan reported had initiated the trade discussions.
Soon, Irving used Bryant’s advice — doing what he thought was best for him — and demanded a trade. Eventually, Boston sent a package of Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick to Cleveland in exchange for Irving.
The Celtics, led by Irving, currently lead the Eastern Conference at 39-15, while the Cavaliers find themselves in third place but with major roster holes and the threat of LeBron James leaving the franchise a second time this summer.
Of note: Cavs players recently accused Kevin Love of faking an illness, and James’ relationship with owner Dan Gilbert appears to be cracking, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. In terms of points allowed per 100 possessions, Cleveland’s defense is comparable to the Suns in the bottom-three of the NBA.
Meanwhile in Phoenix, the Suns are trying to balance action with patience. They are attempting to keep their heads above water at 18-36 and hoping to find help for another Bryant mentee in 21-year-old Devin Booker.
And for the foreseeable future, Irving’s departure from Cleveland will continue to goad fans in all three cities to wonder “What if?”
- Warren’s scoring, energy from bench snap Suns’ 10-game losing streak
- Suns owner Robert Sarver: I am 100 percent committed to Phoenix
- Two Arizona sports venues rank well in ESPN cleanliness study
- Suns shouldn’t panic over PG now, says former NBA exec Marks
- Suns say priority is staying ‘long-term’ as arena vote is pushed back