CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving wants the stage for himself.
Cleveland’s All-Star point guard has asked the Cavaliers to trade him, two people familiar with the situation told the Associated Press on Friday. Irving made the request last week to owner Dan Gilbert, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team is not commenting on the star’s demands.
Irving’s appeal was first reported by ESPN.
A four-time All-Star, Irving has spent six seasons with the Cavs, who selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011. The 25-year-old has overcome injury issues and blossomed into one of the league’s elite point guards and biggest stars.
And now that he’s finally established himself playing alongside LeBron James, Irving wants out.
He’s under contract for two more seasons with Cleveland (he has a player option in 2020), but the Cavs could be inclined to move Irving now and begin another rebuild around James, who can opt out of his contract next summer and leave Ohio for the second time.
The bombshell about Irving adds to what has been a tumultuous offseason for the Cavs following their loss in five games to Golden State in the NBA Finals. General manager David Griffin parted ways with the club after failing to work out a new contract with Gilbert and while other teams have been active in signing free agents the Cavs have been limited in their ability to revamp their roster because of salary-cap issues.
Also, the Cavs courted former NBA star Chauncey Billups but couldn’t get him to join their front office.
Irving’s request to be dealt perhaps sheds some light on the Cavs’ recent pursuit of former league MVP Derrick Rose. The team has talked to Rose about a one-year contract in recent days, a source familiar with the negotiations told the AP on Thursday.
Rose was thought to be a potential backup, but now it appears he could be needed to start if the Cavs and Irving are indeed breaking up.
There is certain to be major interest in Irving, who averaged a career-high 25.2 points and 5.8 assists in 72 games last season. Irving averaged 25.9 points in his third straight Finals, but he and James couldn’t do enough to match the Warriors, who took back their crown after adding Kevin Durant last summer.
A potential trade partner for the Cavs could be the New York Knicks, who have been trying to unload Carmelo Anthony, a close friend of James. Irving is from New Jersey and would welcome a chance to go back to his home area. However, the Knicks may not have enough assets to intrigue the Cavs and there is a sizeable imbalance in contracts, so the Cavs would have to include other players in any potential deal.
It’s strange that Irving would choose now to ask for a trade.
After all, he has finally developed into a bona fide superstar following three tough seasons following James’ departure to Miami in 2010. Irving had no help during those years and the Cavs were in a state of disarray before James came back in 2014.
In his second year alongside James, Irving made the biggest shot in franchise history, draining a 3-pointer in the closing moments of Game 7 to give the Cavs their first title — and the first for any Cleveland pro team since 1964.
By all accounts, Irving and James got along but there were times when they didn’t quite see eye to eye.
James was demanding of his younger teammates but he was always adamant that Irving would grow into a superior player. Following Cleveland’s Game 5 loss in the Finals, Irving credited James for leading the way.
“He’s freaking awesome,” Irving said. “As a student of the game, it would be a disservice to myself if I didn’t try to learn as much as possible while I’m playing with this guy. Every single day demanding more out of himself, demanding more out of us, the true testament of a consummate professional. And understanding how things work, not only just in the game but off the court, things that matter, just taking care of your body, understanding the magnitude of what the goal is at hand and what steps it takes in order to achieve that goal.”
Moments earlier, James had walked off the court at Oracle Arena where Irving was waiting
They made their signature handshake and James told Irving, “We’ll be back.”
Now, they may be headed in opposite directions.