"Irving was tired of being Robin to James' Batman. Tired of having another superstar—even one of the best players of all time—in control of his fate. Yes, he had learned from James in the three seasons they'd played together. Yes, he was appreciative. But Irving felt the time had come to take his destiny into his own hands. He wanted to be the centerpiece of a team, as he thought he was going to be three years ago when he signed a five-year extension 11 days before James decided to come home."
Irving reportedly requested a trade in early July, according to the report.
In a meeting with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, Irving said he wanted to be dealt to one of four teams: the Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat or New York Knicks.
It wasn't a decision Irving appeared to come to lightly. Per the report, he thought about the possibility of asking for a trade for "some time," reaching out to those he trusted for advice. Cleveland had suspected something could be brewing:
"Over the previous few months, the Cavs had been worried about Irving's mindset. They knew at times he'd grown unhappy with playing a secondary role on the team. [Then-general manager David] Griffin had several conversations with Irving throughout the year, sources said, trying to find ways to work on the situation. But Irving had become irritated before, the side effects of James' greatness—and largesse—wearing on him. The Cavs had been able to navigate it, and they hoped to again."
Irving had reportedly grown weary with shaping his game to fit alongside James, which included allowing James to often be the primary ball-handler, but his dissatisfaction stretched beyond the court:
"There were ancillary issues that bothered Irving, too, such as how James' good friend Randy Mims had a position on the Cavs staff and traveled on the team plane while none of Irving's close friends were afforded the same opportunity. Irving chafed about how peers such as Damian Lillard and John Wall were the center of their franchises and catered to accordingly."
James and Irving attempted to work through it. Per the report, "Several times during the Cavs' playoff run, Irving had long, intense conversations with James as they tried to get the team into a groove following a choppy and inconsistent regular season."
They failed to find that groove in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, losing in five games after a 12-1 start to the postseason.
And so the team's dysfunctional offseason began. Cleveland let go of Griffin and, according to Shelburne, McMenamin and Windhorst, engaged with the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers in an attempt to acquire Jimmy Butler or Paul George, though it didn't pull off either of those potential trades.
It also failed in its attempts to hire Chauncey Billups to run the front office.
All the while, the uncertain future of James—set to become a free agent after 2017-18—hung over the organization.
The Cavs are under no obligation to trade Irving or move him to one of his preferred destinations, of course. And it's more than possible they will simply keep him if they aren't offered the right package in a trade. But they'd run the risk of an unhappy Irving, who could affect the locker room and will be a free agent after the 2018-19 season.
For a team that hasn't made up any ground on Golden State this summer, moving Irving in a deal that brings back talented pieces—who could help Cleveland win another title behind James—appears to be the best solution.