One of the great NBA reads this season comes courtesy of Jackie MacMullan, who takes us deep inside the Kyrie Irving split from LeBron. There’s some new information here that will lead many (including myself) to understand why Kyrie left the 2nd best player in NBA history.
I thought the biggest eye-opener was this exchange Irving had with Cavs coach Ty Lue last year:
During a rare practice in the middle of last season, coach Tyronn Lue, who was standing next to assistant coach and Irving confidante Phil Handy, called out to his young point guard.
“Ky,” Lue said, “I want you to play a little faster.”
“Why?” Irving asked.
“Because if we play faster, we get shots off easier.”
“I don’t need to play faster to get my shot off,” Irving replied. “I can do that anytime.”
“I’m not talking about your shot. I’m talking about RJ and JR,” Lue said, citing teammates Richard Jefferson and Smith.
“Well, that’s No. 23’s job,” Irving replied, referring to James.
According to members of the Cavs organization who witnessed the exchange, Lue ended the conversation by walking away, shaking his head.
There’s no other league where a coach would put up with that. Is it wrong of Irving to feel that way? Maybe, but I can see why he thinks that: This was his team. They drafted him #1 overall.
Then LeBron came in, and it was LeBron’s team. And Kyrie Irving didn’t adjust well to that. Especially not after hitting the most important shot in franchise history in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. My extended thoughts on that:
The real test will be LeBron vs Kyrie in the Eastern Conference Finals. I think it’s a tossup with a slight edge to the Cavs. Everyone will say that Kyrie made the right/wrong decision based on how that series goes. The problem? When LeBron walks in July, it’s obvious Kyrie made the right move.