As the two get set to face each other Saturday at Staples Center, with their new teams headed in opposite directions, Irving told The Athletic he is not reveling in LeBron’s L.A. misfortunes. “I feel for him. I really do. I feel for him,” Irving said. “I’m very empathetic towards it because how much he wanted to play during that time when he messed up his groin.”
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Irving said criticisms of LeBron in L.A. are “a little unfair because of how much time he missed.” “You’re coming to a team like that and you have a lot of the responsibility, and you come back in the middle of the regular season, it’s hard because now other teams are gearing up for the playoffs, that next level of play,” Irving said. “Bron knows about it, (Rajon) Rondo knows about it, but Kuz (Kyle Kuzma) and Brandon Ingram, he’s trying to teach these guys well about what it takes to win consistently in this league.
However, despite the two’s shared history — including a saga this season that saw Irving and James rectify their relationship — Irving told reporters on Friday that it’s easy to ignore the hype surrounding his matchups with James: “It’s pretty easy,” Irving said. “It’s not hard. It’s not hard at all. It’s just another game but going against a great competitor, a teammate like ‘Bron is always fun. You just understand that these head-to-head matchups probably will happen for a few more years…. you just want to take advantage of them. Just the great players you get a chance to play against in our league, you always want to play well.”
Yes, there was damage done to the relationship between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Also yes, it was repaired by Irving’s call to James last month to apologize. “Yeah, we’re in a good place right now,” James told The Athletic Saturday night. “Me and Kyrie are in a good place right now. I love the man that he’s becoming, I love the challenges he’s accepted and I always wish the best for him.”
Irving was drafted by Cleveland while James was in Miami and, although the pair linked up to win the 2016 championship, reports in recent months have claimed that the duo, who have both now departed, did not get along as team-mates. Boston Celtics point guard Irving allegedly claimed the Cavs did not need James before the two clashed, but Moore, who spent six years in Cleveland, says there were no issues between them. "There was no falling out. I think that's more media talk," he told Omnisport. "The locker room was totally fine. [Irving] just wanted to go in another direction."
Scott Souza: #Celtics Kyrie Irving on his time in Cleveland: they didn't hand me the keys there. They shouldn't have. I was too young. I had to learn to be a leader. I'd compete, but had to learn how to be competed against. (Credited being teammates w/ LeBron James for helping him do that).
Kyrie Irving: "Inevitably, when you're playing with a great player like 'Bron, it's gonna be a lot. And I feel like that right there is a testament of greatness how you adapt to those situations. Instead of kind of willing away from the challenge, why run away from it? I just ran full force and took it by the head. There are times where it was really, really tough. Really, really tough." Simmons: "What was tough about it? Just not having the ball all the time or just the spotlight that he brings?" Irving: "I would say you're being tested on the biggest stage in front of everyone, all the time. I mean like, there was not a time where it was like the eyes weren't on me, on 'Bron, on K-Love, our team, our organization. I went from being in Cleveland to having half the fans show up to now 'Bron shows up and now every night is packed, every road game is like a home game for us. You think of the media attention that comes with all of that and the elevated pressure of, 'Now it's championship or you fail.' And then you gotta figure out how you fit within the system. Basketball is a systemic game. How do you build that strategy and how do you fit in with that? And it was tough."
Fred Katz: Kyrie on if he'd be open to playing with LeBron: "In this business, I've experienced it all and I've seen a lot so we'll see what management decides."
It has been widely reported that James was against the Cavs' decision to acquiesce to Kyrie Irving's trade request. For the first time publicly, James told Nichols that he did call management to ask them not to trade Irving. "Even if you start back to the summertime where I felt like it was just bad for our franchise just to be able to trade away our superstar point guard," James said. "A guy that I had been in so many battles with over the last three years, and obviously I wasn't a part of the communications and know exactly what went on between the two sides. But I just felt like it was bad timing for our team."
"So I felt like the odds were against us from the summer," James continued. "And then you know we come into the season, and our All-Star point guard that we got from Boston [Isaiah Thomas] wasn't able to play until January. We just had so many things going with our team. We shuffled in different lineups, we shuffled in different players, we made a trade at the deadline, and I can't sit here right now and say that the Finals was a part of my thinking."
“It’s that and more, in terms of having a head coach that allows you to grow and wants to push you every single time you step on that floor. Whether it be in practice or walkthrough or in the game, he’s just consistently giving me encouragement and making sure that I understand how big this game is and how you manage it throughout 48 minutes. So I’m just very appreciative that I can follow a guy like that and he allows me to be one of the leaders on the team.” Irving specifically says he is one of the leaders. He rejects the notion that he wanted to leave Cleveland to be “The Guy,” something sources have refuted as a misnomer. The emphasis is on being in a culture with the balance and organizational consistency that allows him to thrive. The fractured top-down structure in Cleveland led to too many imbalances in power, decision-making and forward direction.
LeBron James is loathe to place that burden on Isaiah Thomas ("We can't rely on just one person."). Yet he knows, better than anyone, how badly he needs him. "It's been a while since I've had that clear-cut guy who can get guys involved but also score at the same time," James told B/R Mag. "But it's fine. It's something that our team will make an adjustment to."
Marla Ridenour: LeBron on Kyrie: "When he ready for keys I was ready to give to him. Only thing I'm upset about is he took some of the blueprint to Boston."
Brian Windhorst: LeBron James on Kyrie Irving: "I was ready to give him the keys...I tried to help him be as good as he could be...I don't have any advice for him now, you're either with us or against us...it was a gratifying three years together." He said he hasn't communicated with Irving since trade.
As the world waits for the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade Kyrie Irving – there’s almost zero chance he starts the season on the Cavs roster – a possible kernel of hope for everyone in Ohio: Kyrie has been hanging out in Miami some this offseason, and LeBron may have spent some time there … so maybe the two met up? Woj went on ESPN radio this morning to address the rumors: "There’s always a lot of stuff that floats around on the internet … I don’t know of any meeting. I know they both spent time in Miami. I know Kyrie has been at the University of Miami working out over the last weeks … and LeBron spends some time there in the offseason too … it’s not inconceivable that they could cross paths somewhere. But it even if they did, it’s not going to change anything. To me, it doesn’t mean anything. I’m not sure there’s anything for them to talk out. Kyrie’s made his trade request, and it’s for reasons bigger than Lebron, and he’s not going to rescind that."
ESPN Cleveland: Windy on LeBron's tweets: "In this case, we don't have to parse his words. Of course LeBron is a upset at Kyrie."
Many Cavs players and coaches – including Kevin Love and coach Tyronn Lue – has spent the summer in southern California. Most if not all Cleveland players are expected to attend James' workouts, including Kyrie Irving, who will likely attend despite playing this summer for Team USA in the Rio Olympics, according to a source.
LeBron James: They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir https://www.instagram.com/p/BG5Byk7iTGF/
The kind of brilliance that Irving put on display -- one of the main reasons James wanted to return to Cleveland in the first place -- has almost never accompanied James in these moments. Irving may have officially arrived as an NBA superstar in scoring 41 points on 17-of-24 shooting to go with six assists on Monday. Together, they became the first duo to both score 40-plus points in an NBA Finals game. "You got a guy like this who's very special," James said, gesturing toward Irving next to him at the interview table. "Probably one of the greatest performances I've ever seen live."
Even though James went on the record to say his tweets didn't have anything to do with the Cleveland Cavaliers, there were still skeptics. When Kyrie Irving posted a vague tweet of his own, suddenly it was subtweet sabotage. Or was it? "I don't really check Twitter for people's comments or what they're saying or anything like that," Irving told ESPN.com. "I didn't think it was directed toward me at all. I know everybody made a big deal about it and then I tweet and then all of the sudden it's a subtle beef between me and Bron. No, I don't think Bron tweets for me and I don't think I tweet for LeBron."
Now that James' tweet-driven news cycle has thankfully been put to bed and we can look back at it, did it end up having any effect on the team in terms of creating tension? "No, no, no, not at all," Irving said. "If it did, I think I would have said something."