"In mid-June, shortly before [former general manager David] Griffin left, team and league sources confirm, the Cavs explored a three-way deal with Phoenix and Indiana that would have shipped Irving and [Channing] Frye to the Suns and brought Eric Bledsoe and Paul George to Cleveland. The Suns resisted, unwilling to part with their No. 4 pick, which they planned to use to draft Josh Jackson."
That trade came a month before Irving requested one out of Cleveland, ultimately landing with the Boston Celtics in a deal that brought Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Brooklyn's 2018 first-round pick and Ante Zizic to Cleveland.
Irving called the details of his trade request "distorted."
"I didn't feel the need to say anything because I knew the truth, and so did they," he told MacMullan. "So it didn't matter what others said."
"They didn't want me there," he added.
According to MacMullan's report, the team's trade talks in June "stung" Irving, and he became convinced that LeBron James was behind the potential deal, though "team and league sources refute that, saying that it was [former general manager David] Griffin who initiated the trade talks with Phoenix."
Those conversations stalled, then Griffin stepped down. Attempts at landing Paul George in a three-way deal with Indiana and Denver that would have sent Kevin Love to the Nuggets fell through (as did attempts to trade for Jimmy Butler). Irving ultimately made his request to be moved, though he wasn't pleased with how his request was perceived.
"I thought there would be a sense of confidentiality on everyone's part. I'm not going to point fingers, even though I know fingers will get pointed anyway, but the way it happened was disappointing," he said. "It was hurtful how it spun out. It turned into a narrative where everyone got to have an opinion on why I should do this, why I should do that. I'm this. I'm that. I'm selfish. That's fine because that's not reality. It was just a bunch of noise."
From there, the trade to Boston materialized, though Irving made it clear he didn't orchestrate the move to the Celtics.
"There's a misconception how all this went down," Irving told MacMullan. "I was traded to Boston. I had no say at all in where they sent me. There were no conversations like, 'OK, this is an opportunity we can pursue.' It wasn't a recruitment process."
But perhaps all's well that ends well. Irving, 25, has thrived in Boston, averaging 24.8 points, 4.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He's shooting a career-best 48.9 percent from the field and draining threes at a 40.4 percent clip.
He's established an excellent rapport with Al Horford and has seemed to be a natural fit in Brad Stevens' offense. In the process, he's led the Celtics to a 30-10 record. Only Golden State (29-8) has a better winning percentage this season.
The core of Irving, Horford, Jaylen Brown, rookie Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward (when he returns from injury) is incredibly promising. Add in either the Los Angeles Lakers 2018 first-round pick (if it lands in the range of 2-5) or the Sacramento Kings 2019 first-rounder if the L.A. pick doesn't convey, and the Celtics are loaded with players and assets to build around Irving for the foreseeable future.