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LeBron James was ‘adamant’ with Cavaliers GM: Don’t trade Kyrie Irving

On Wednesday, LeBron James will return to play against the Cavaliers for the first time since leaving Cleveland for the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.

In an interview with The Athletic, he revisited what he called “the beginning of the end for everything” with the Cavaliers: The trade of Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics.

The story recounts the day the Cavs made the deal: James was signing jerseys in Santa Monica, and with the trade about to go down, then-coach Tyronn Lue drove to James and got him on the phone with GM Koby Altman:

James was adamant on the call — do not trade Irving, especially to the Celtics. By the end of the call, according to four separate accounts of people present for the conversation, Altman told James the trade would not occur.

Minutes later, on Aug. 22, 2017, word broke that the Cavs agreed in principle to send Irving to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick.

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. …

James suggested he didn’t feel he was lied to by Altman, so much as Altman was overruled by owner Dan Gilbert.

“You realize at that point in time, take nothing from Koby, because Koby (was just named GM), but at that point in time, you realize that Koby’s not the only one running the team, as (former GM David Griffin) had done, and that’s why Griff was let go pretty much,” James said.

We know that James’ relationship with Gilbert was icy to say the least, particularly after the now-infamous scathing letter written in Comic Sans font after James bolted for Miami years ago.

But we also know that James was a year away from making another free-agent decision, and that’s where the Cavs’ front office’s response is key:

Cavs front-office officials declined to be quoted for this story but disputed that Altman gave James any indication the trade would not occur. They also said Altman asked James whether he would commit to the Cavs long-term if Irving were not traded, and James said no.

In other words, it was a complicated situation for Cleveland’s brass: If James did indeed want the team to keep Irving but he had the potential to leave, what should the Cavaliers done? Start a rebuild or hope James would decide to stay? Then you have to factor in reports that Irving was unhappy at the time — The Athletic story mentions he “told the Cavs he wanted out so badly he’d go ahead with knee surgery and miss a large portion of the year.”

They chose to kick-start the rebuild, and here we are over a year later. Irving will contend for a title with the Celtics, James and the Lakers are figuring out how to work together and the Cavs are a mess.

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