While Kyrie Irving’s trade request from the Cleveland Cavaliers caught the NBA world by surprise, former Cavs general manager David Griffin said Irving handled it the right way.
“He handled the situation exactly like he was supposed to,” Griffin said Monday on ESPN’s “The Jump.”
According to a July ESPN report, Griffin was aware of Irving’s occasional unhappiness with his role on the Cavs and often talked to him and kept him in the loop with team goings-on. Griffin left the team in June, shortly before his contract expired, citing differences in opinion over the team’s direction.
On “The Jump,” Griffin said Irving would have done more damage to the team by pretending to be on-board.
“He went to [Cavs owner] Dan Gilbert privately, told him that he thought he would be happier somewhere else,” Griffin said. “The absolute worst thing this guy could have done was pretend to be all-in and sink the ship from within. Most guys don’t have the courage to do what he did.”
Griffin also noted that Irving signed an extension with the Cavs in 2014 before LeBron James returned to the team. Suddenly, the team’s direction shifted, as did Irving’s role. Griffin said James casts a “very large shadow” on a team, and he thinks Irving, at 25 years old, simply wants to try to lead a team on his own.
“I see this as him looking for a fit for himself, to take the next step in his career. I think this is a guy who wants to know how good he can be. LeBron casts a very large shadow over an organization. And most of it is really, really positive. You know you are expected to win a championship by way of example. But what that doesn’t always allow is for a player like Kyrie to test his boundaries and see how good he can really be, and can I really be the front man of a team like that.”
Likewise, Griffin noted that some of the teams on Irving’s requested destinations like the San Antonio Spurs (Griffin also mentioned the Boston Celtics, which weren’t reported as one of Irving’s preferred destinations) are winning teams. Irving isn’t trying to lead a “ragtag” squad, according to Griffin.
Some of the trade buzz around Irving has died down as the Cavs seek the right return for the star point guard. Griffin believes the team will have to trade Irving before training camp, as the tension and chemistry may be too uncomfortable.
Many have criticized Irving’s decision for wanting to leave a perennial contender and superstar in LeBron James. Former Cavaliers guard Ron Harper recently blamed “youth” and “ignorance” for Irving’s trade demands.
However, to Griffin, Irving is doing the right thing – if he doesn’t want to be there, let the team know in advance, and they can try to find the best deal.