Jason Lloyd of The Athletic joins The Full 48's Howard Beck to discuss the Kyrie Irving trade to Boston, what it means for the Cleveland Cavaliers and how a "Kobe Identity" may be driving the former Cavs point guard to find success at the beat of his own drum.
Lloyd also dives into what a post-LeBron era could look like for the Cavaliers—something for which he believes the franchise is already preparing.
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On why Irving is no longer with the Cavs
It wasn't just the LeBron issue—certainly that had a lot to do with it, but ... he didn't appreciate his name being involved in trade rumors. The Cavs were very close to dealing him to Phoenix prior to the draft in a deal that would have brought Eric Bledsoe and Paul George here, and it was shortly after that when I heard, 'Man, Kyrie's upset; he's not talking to anybody.'
On the desire to leave LeBron
Kyrie was always very appreciative of the opportunities that LeBron provided for him, and Kyrie understands that he would not have played on the platform that he did, and on the stage that he did, without LeBron. But at the same time, when he signed his max contract to stay here a couple summers ago, he signed that under the promise that he was gonna be the face of the franchise.
On Irving adopting a 'Kobe identity'
Kyrie has always walked to his own beat. He's made that clear from the beginning that he thinks differently, he approaches things differently, and we saw that last year with the flat-earth comments. But he's always just sort of been his own guy. And he's embraced this 'Kobe identity', if you will, a little bit.
... Kobe, on his way out, kind of told Kyrie to sort of be the lightning rod in the locker room, that you don't always win with the kumbaya and everyone gets along. Kobe had said LeBron very much tries to pull people together and that's his role, but sometimes you need that friction and resistance to make things work and I think Kobe has encouraged Kyrie to be that way and to be himself and to walk to his own beat.
On what Celtics are getting in Irving
There's no doubt Kyrie is an elite scorer in the NBA. He can defend when he wants to, when the spirit moves him—it just doesn't move him very often. But he's proven, he's shown that he can be a very good defender in this league when he wants to be; he just chooses not to do it very often.
And the personality side of it, he can be very moody—he can be extremely moody. And I've had Cavs players tell me even in the playoffs last year and their run up to the Finals where there was days Kyrie would come in and he wouldn't even talk to anyone, he wouldn't say hello to anyone.
... But that's just him; he's just very moody. And I don't know if you can do that and be the leader of the team and the face of the franchise. He was able to get away with it here because of LeBron's presence.
On living up to expectations in Boston
This is on him now. This is on him to make it work, this is what he asked for, and I think that's gonna make him more malleable to change because he has to. It's his legacy on the line, it's his whatever word you wanna use because this is the situation he wanted, he's got it, so now he's got to find a way to make it work.
On Cavs instability as an organization
Before they won the championship, it was LeBron's first year back when David Blatt was in charge and things were in chaos, and it was at the combine. I was talking to a couple different people who all basically had the same message—coaches and GMs and whatever else, they all had the same message: You cannot win in the NBA without structured [stability]. You cannot do it...but LeBron may be good enough to cover it all in Cleveland.
On why LeBron may leave Cleveland
If he leaves, it's because ... he's got nothing left to prove. He did what he came back to do, he wanted to win a championship for Cleveland—certainly he wanted to win more than one, but he got the one. And so I feel like he feels like his resume is complete and he's free to do what he wants and go where he wants.
On what Cavs do with Brooklyn's draft pick
There's just not that many players who are worth trading that pick for. And it's a question of whether they're gonna become available this season, and even if they do, I stand by the belief I don't think the Cavs are trading that pick without any assurance that LeBron is coming back next year, and I don't think he's gonna give them that assurance.