Former Cavs coach Tyronn Lue showed up to an autograph signing to hand off a phone call from Altman, who informed LeBron of the potential deal involving Irving. LeBron told Altman not to make the deal, and Altman agreed. Yet the Cavaliers and Boston Celtics completed the deal over the next few minutes. James suggested to The Athletic that owner Dan Gilbert must have overruled Altman.
James’ close friend, Randy Mims, and bodyguard Rob Brown came to him with their phones to show him the news. James, who was still signing jerseys, dropped the pen and slumped in his chair.
“Everyone knows that when Kyrie got traded it was the beginning of the end for everything. It’s not a secret,” James said in an interview with The Athletic.
Front-office staffers told The Athletic that LeBron refused to make a long-term commitment, even if the Cavaliers didn’t trade Irving. That’s a different end than the one that seemed to take place in the 2017 offseason. In fact, Irving believed LeBron leaked trade rumors in order to send the guard on his way out of Cleveland. But perhaps, that depiction was very wrong.
Irving, in fact, told the Cavs he wanted out so badly he’d go ahead with knee surgery and miss a large portion of the year if he wasn’t traded. James, who did little to try to bridge the divide with Irving, told the Cavs to keep Irving in spite of his threats.
… James felt Gilbert was taking a more active role in basketball decisions and was in effect trying to pivot away from an organizational structure centered on James.
LeBron seemed to think he and Irving could solve their differences, even though Irving’s issue was the fact that he didn’t want to play with LeBron. Gilbert didn’t allow LeBron to sort out those problems, which didn’t help the already-strained relationship between Gilbert and LeBron.
If the Cavaliers didn’t get a commitment from LeBron, perhaps it was wise of them to begin preparing for life without the superstar. If Lebron’s voice was getting ignored, then perhaps he felt justified in moving to a place where he’d again be the centerpiece.
The Irving trade left LeBron and the Cavaliers with a dysfunctional line of communication to start what would be his final season in Cleveland.