You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Top Stories

Former Cavs GM David Griffin details Kyrie Irving’s trade request and its root cause

CelticsWire logo CelticsWire 3 days ago Jared Weiss

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

There will always be a great cloud of mystery over Kyrie Irving's departure from Cleveland. He lifted the veil strategically during his introductory press conference with the Boston Celtics and a few interviews following that, but the key details were always hiding somewhere in the subtext of his complicated and garrulous answers.

Just before Irving's trade request went public, Cleveland suffered another significant loss. Their renowned GM David Griffin was let go after his contract expired, a staple of the Dan Gilbert era with the Cavs that was a trait that certainly played a role in Irving's departure. But the loss for Griffin became a blessing to the rest of the world, as he has begun to slowly discuss the inner workings of the Irving situation on the record, as he did with Frank Isola and Brian Scalabrine on Sirius XM NBA Radio Monday morning.

The key point from the universally revered former GM known as Griff was that Kyrie's departure was a long time coming. It was a death by 1,000 cuts to man who found himself in a great situation that would be perfect for almost anyone in the world. Just not him.

"Everyone wants to find a silver bullet or magic bullet that made everything end. It wasn't that," Griffin said. "It was a gradual day-to-day thing of an evolution from a young guy who went from being the first pick in the draft to being an Olympic champion and NBA champion, making the biggest shot in the history of Cleveland, you evolve and change that way."

The issue was that Cleveland was getting this trade request at a suboptimal moment. It actually worked out quite well for them, as they got an injured - but soon to return - star in Isaiah Thomas, the dynamic three-and-D wing they've been hunting for in Jae Crowder, a potentially massive first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets, a solid prospect in Ante Zizic and even a future second-rounder as compensation post consummation for the severity of Thomas' injury.

"Kyrie knows this and we have talked about this pretty clearly. If he had articulated to me he was going to be traded, we would have traded [him]," Griffin said. "If he asked to be traded, we would have traded him. You're all the way in or all the way out on winning a championship.

"You don't get to bring the house down from within and if you're miserable, the worst thing you can do is hide it."

But Kyrie did hide it for so long. It did not seem to affect his performances too much. But in the fall out of the trade, word emanated from Cleveland's end that Irving became increasingly isolated during the playoffs last season. It was becoming apparent that the house was soon to crumble if a change didn't happen.

"So, I think what he did was what he was supposed to do," Griffin said. "For a team who wants to win the championship, he made it clear."

Kyrie did help the team figure out their direction a little more clearly. LeBron's future was increasingly finite for a variety of reasons and Cleveland was doing a deep reassessment of everything they had built.

"Again, I just don't think it was that complicated a situation relative to the Paul George question," Griffin said. "So, because I left the Monday before the draft, there were many, many questions being had leading up to that point, relative to what will we execute?"

Those questions were massive, because Griffin has eyes and ears and was well aware of the groundswell of rumors that LeBron James could find himself heading to the LA Lakers a year later when his contract expired. At that point, Cleveland was walking a dangerous tight rope with LeBron and they were simultaneously aware that their safety net for the future was on the precipice of forcing a trade.

"Because we had not made a decision about whether or not we will be there long term, we had a lot of things teed up and deals that could have been made," said Griffin.

Griffin expounded upon Irving's gradual thought process, going from embracing the opportunity to achieve greatness and win a title, to dealing with the consequences of that experience relative to his personal goals, something that was a major theme for Irving in his post-trade remarks.

"I think he grew in our organization immensely," Griffin said. "He came in as a 19-year-old kid who played 11 college games. Came to a team that wasn't very good. We didn't have that same expectancy of wining. We didn't have a real culture of accountability. So he grew up as a young player directionless in ways, in terms of, 'What are we trying to achieve tonight?' So what he was trying to achieve was, do the most he possibly could with his talent."

"So I think what happens was when you get into a situation where now, you flip the switch to where we're now about championships every second of every day. So he lost a bit of the rein he had. It's natural to kind of resist that when you have the level of talent he has."

Now that all of the drama is over, the question will always remain over time who won the deal. Was it right for Kyrie? For Cleveland? For Boston? Griffin sees the general public reaction over time leaning toward Boston, but cautioned understanding the context of the situation from Cleveland's perspective before casting judgement.

"Will it be judged historically as a good trade? No it won't be. Because Kyrie is going to be a special individual player and the way this works from a social media standpoint and a media coverage standpoint, all they're going to talk about is how good he is."

But Griffin's successor Koby Altman will have a different perspective on the situation, as the perceived results of the trade won't matter if they continue to win and keep LeBron home.

"Do I think he's going to be hailed as having made a great trade deep into the future? Probably not. But if he wins a championship, I know Koby doesn't care. So, he had a subset of things he had to achieve and I think if you know what those things are, he probably achieved them."

Most objective observers, including this author, saw the trade as a massive success for Cleveland, considering they were in a poor leverage position. Griffin shed a deeper light on that, confirming that the organization was still completely in the dark on LeBron's future.

"Given the cards that Koby Altman was playing at the time, given the circumstances they found themselves in, if you were dealing with a situation where LeBron refuses to unequivocally tell you if he is staying with the organization, you don't know what the long-term future is. You're trying to win championships while he's there and simultaneously set yourself up for a future run.

"I think the deal they put together was very well constructed. I think it was a very good deal given the cards they were playing at the time."

It appears Boston is certainly happy so far with their return, while the payoff for Cleveland will come over the next eight months. Whatever the outcome, it will be one of the most interesting fallouts to one of the most unique situations in the NBA in a long time.

MORE:

Goddard responds to McGregor to clear up facts of Bellator 187 melee

Controversial pro golfer returns to Twitter and immediately offends everyone

LeBron James takes veiled shot at Kyrie Irving: “It’s been a while” since he’s had a playmaking scorer with him

Kyle Shanahan on 49ers' looming free agents: 'There are guys I want back'

Case Keenum reveals which Rams player will try to get in his head Sunday

Related slideshow: Best of the 2017-18 NBA season (Provided by photo services) 

Nov 16, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) puts up a layup over Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. 2017-18 NBA season

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from CelticsWire

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon