Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving has listed the San Antonio Spurs as one of four teams he would prefer to join in an NBA trade that would grant him his wish to get away from LeBron James.
That can’t be good news for the Dallas Mavericks, a longtime Spurs rival, and the rest of the teams in the NBA Western Conference trying to move up in the West pecking order.
On Friday, the Associated Press was told by two sources familiar with the situation that Cleveland’s All-Star point guard has asked the Cavaliers to trade him. 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.
ESPN reported that Irving has indicated he wants to be the focal point of a team’s offense and doesn’t want to play alongside James, citing sources.
The Spurs were raised as a preferred destination, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Other possibilities: the New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources told ESPN.
A tweet by Ian Begley of ESPN New York said Irving had considered the Chicago Bulls a landing destination before the team traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota.
Wojnarowski said Friday evening on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” that he believes Irving’s trade request “was related to LeBron James but it’s not because of LeBron.”
The ESPN reporter said he thinks Irving was considering speculation that James will leave the Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers or LA Clippers in free agency.
“If LeBron leaves, Kyrie is left with a team that does not fit him,” Wojnarowski said. Cleveland would be a slower-paced team without James.
Sources told Wojnarowski that the Spurs, with Kawhi Leonard as its superstar in a wing position, is “a situation that really intrigues him.”
Already this off-season, another Mavericks geographic rival, the Oklahoma City Thunder, lessened the damage from the Kevin Durant free-agent defection to Golden State a year ago with the addition through trade of forward Paul George.
KENS5.com, website for a San Antonio TV station, reported that Irving will make about $18.8 million this upcoming season with a raise to more than $20 million the following season and then a little more than $21 million in the final year of his deal.
The website speculates that though Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge has one year less on his contract than Irving, he could be part of a deal with Cleveland if a trade was worked.
Irving’s request to be dealt perhaps sheds some light on the Cavs’ recent pursuit of former league MVP Derrick Rose, the Associated Press reported. 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.
Knicks could be trade partner
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.
All of it will fall on Koby Altman, who has been serving as the team’s interim GM and is being promoted to the position full-time. A person familiar with the decision said Altman’s deal is being finalized and he will be announced as the team’s new GM in the next few days.
Altman, who has been with the club since 2012, will be the fifth GM to work for Gilbert since 2005.
This story contains information from The Associated Press.