Opinion: Et tu, Kyrie?

Jack Kopanski

Seven years ago, the collective heart of Cleveland was broken when the chosen-one, LeBron James, left in the most arrogant way a player can: Televising an hour-long special to announce that he was leaving his hometown team for the Miami Heat.

Now, in a somehow even more infuriating move, Kyrie Irving has “announced” that he wants out of Cleveland to become the main man of his own team. (I use the word announced lightly, as the only way it came out was through a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.)

The man who was the face of the franchise for three of the four years of the post-LeBron era, is now tired of playing with the best player in the world and being part of a perennial championship contender.

Okay, then…

Let’s look back at what Irving did during that three-year period when he was carrying the team, shall we?

While Cleveland’s record improved every season after Irving came, they never crested .500, with a high of 33 wins the season before LeBron returned. This shows that, unless he is surrounded by other talented players, being “the man” will do nothing to help Irving’s legacy or the team he’s on.

Looking at his individual stats, perhaps the most glaring one is his inability to stay healthy for a full season. He’s played as many as 75 (’14-’15) and as few as 51 in his 2011-12 rookie season.

He is a player that will shoot a lot of shots, but for a point guard, falls drastically short when it comes to his assist numbers. While that is the way the position has been trending in recent years — more about scoring than being a facilitator — when you’re shooting percentage can’t back up the amount of shots taken, you’re going to be in trouble on your own.

Last and, most certainly, worst, Irving has consistently been one of the worst defenders on the team. It’s not a secret but something that can be looked past when you’re scoring 25 a night as part of a championship caliber Big-3.

While he has stayed more injury-free lately than he had in earlier seasons, there is always the concern that his knee will force him out for an extended period of time; not the best quality for a number one option on a team.

All that being considered, it is being reported that Cleveland hopes and expects to get a “king’s ransom” for Irving. And if a team, Eastern or Western Conference, is willing and able to give them said ransom, new General Manager Koby Altman should sign on the dotted line and never look back.

This is not to say that Irving is not worth a massive deal because he absolutely is. (A 25-year-old point guard with two years of team control on a very friendly contract is not going to come around every day.) I say to make a deal quickly because the more time that passes, rather than building allure, questions will begin to be raised about why he hasn’t been moved yet.

Is there a chance that Irving’s camp and representatives from the Cavs can talk things out and smooth things over? Sure, but how much good would that really do?

The cat is out of the bag in terms of how Kyrie really feels. Not only does he not want to play with LeBron, but he wants to lead his own team.

Even if Cleveland can talk him into staying, those feelings aren’t likely to change, and could have more of an effect on the on-court product than one might think.

One advantage that the Cavaliers have in this situation is that it does not matter where Irving is sent.

If he goes to the East, he’s not going to get any further than Cleveland, should he make the playoffs. To the West, same with Golden State.

The signing of former MVP Derrick Rose is a sufficient start to the inevitable “post-Kyrie” era.

He is by no means the type of player he was when he first entered the league — and sure as hell isn’t an adequate replacement for Irving — but he showed that he can still play last season with New York, averaging 18 points, 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

It is still incredibly likely that Cleveland would receive a high-class point guard in any Irving trade, relegating Rose to the bench. If he were to embrace that role, he would still pose a threat in the second-unit that was anemic last season.

This move cannot be talked about without also talking about how big it is for Altman.

Within days of officially taking over for David Griffin, he convinced a veteran player in Rose, who was getting offered more money to go to a bigger market, to come to Cleveland where he would be taking less money but have a chance to play alongside LeBron and have a chance at a title.

Certainly sounds like a pretty nice situation, doesn’t it?

By leaving Cleveland, Irving all but guarantees himself watching the Finals from his couch at home come June, and more than likely watching his former team play in it.

Irving is no idiot, though. He undoubtedly knows what he’s giving up by leaving the only team he’s ever known, and if all that is worth it to be a leader of men somewhere else, Godspeed to him.

He earned himself and the city a ring, and I, personally, will forever be grateful to him and everybody on that team for what they did. But at this point, the bridge is burned, and all of Cleveland is staring at the embers.

Plain and simple: If Kyrie Irving does not want to be a Cleveland Cavalier anymore, it’s time for him to go.

Jack Kopanski is a guest columnist. Contact him at [email protected].