Word is, Irving has taken to telling confidantes he plans to bolt the Cavs as soon as his current contract allows him to do in 2015, much the same way homegrown native James did when he infamously left Cleveland for South Beach in the summer of 2010 to team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, setting the Heat on course to back-to-back NBA titles and in pursuit of the league’s first three-peat in nearly two decades.
The Cavs have struggled mightily thus far this season and the team’s chemistry, or lack thereof, has been an even more crippling issue. All season long, Irving has feuded with backcourt mate Dion Waiters, and players have sniped back and forth with Coach Mike Brown over his personnel and lineup decisions.
Some are speculating all the behind-the-scenes turmoil could make the Cavs’ major players as soon as the upcoming trade deadline in late February. Earlier this season, the team was miraculously able to unload temperamental center Andrew Bynum for All-Star forward Luol Deng.
“Two opposing general managers this season have told me they think Kyrie Irving is pouting,” the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd recently wrote, pointing out that Irving seems to feel justified in his rumored planning based on the team’s dysfunction and 61-132 record since he arrived three seasons ago.
For what it’s worth, Irving used his New York City platform this week to try to quell all the swirling rumors. After the Cavs were trounced by the Knicks 117-86 at The Garden Thursday night, Irving told reporters he expected to be in Cleveland for a “long time” to come.
The 21-year-old up-and-comer voted an Eastern Conference starter in next month’s All-Star Game told The New York Daily News “I’m in Cleveland. I enjoy myself. I enjoy going out and competing at the highest level for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s not about me and it’s not about this controversy. ‘Do I privately want out when my contract is up’… I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here for a long time.”
Irving later emphatically added “I’m not saying anything to tell the future, but I’m pretty sure the relationship I have with owner Dan Gilbert and management extends off the court. I enjoy being here. I’m still trying to get through this season. Everybody is trying to antagonize this team and put it on me to ‘privately he wants out.’ I’m here for my teammates, I’m here for Coach Brown and the coaching staff and I’m going to play my heart out every single night for the Cleveland Cavaliers.”
Somewhere Cavs’ fans are keeping their fingers crossed, while holding their collective breath.