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July 21, 2017

Coincidence that Kyrie Irving asks to be traded after LeBron tweets Ben Simmons? (Probably)

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You don't have to scroll very far down LeBron James' Twitter profile to find the latest reason Sixers fans think their team has a chance at landing the league's best player next summer, when he'll be able to opt out of his contract in Cleveland.

But if you scroll down a little more, to his tweets from late March, there's something missing. Specifically, on March 23rd of this year (or any other year for that matter). See, March 23rd is the birthday of LeBron's point guard in Cleveland, Kyrie Irving. 

This year, Irving turned 25, and as far as we can tell, he never got the Ben Simmons treatment from King James. Sure, it's still in-season and the birthday wishes likely came in person. But maybe they didn't. And maybe Kyrie has had enough.

On Friday, ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported that Irving recently asked team management for a trade. 

The request came last week and was made to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Irving has expressed that he wants to play in a situation where he can be more of a focal point and that he no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James, sources said.

Among several possibilities discussed in Irving's meeting with the Cavaliers, the San Antonio Spurs were raised as a preferred destination, league sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Other teams Irving said he'd be willing to join were the New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources told ESPN.  [espn.com]

As for James, he was reportedly "blindsided and disappointed" by Irving's trade request. 

If he indeed leaves the Cavaliers, who lost to the Warriors in the NBA Finals after beating them a year earlier, Irving would be giving up the chance a big payday due to the fact that he's spent his entire six-year NBA career in Cleveland. 

Combine that with how difficult it'll be to find a landing spot that would increase his chances of winning another title – after all, he already plays with the best player in the world, on the best team in the Eastern Conference – and one can't help but wonder why he would want out of Cleveland.

As Windhorst first reported, the request is due to the fact that Irving believes he can be the centerpiece of a championship team, which he would prefer over playing second fiddle to James. 

That's a sentiment the All-Star guard has expressed in the past as well, including during the Cavs' 2017 postseason run:

And just a few days ago, Irving told Sports Illustrated that he believed his team was "in a very peculiar place."

SI's Maggie Gray asked Irving, "How different could the Cavaliers team look in just a couple years" considering the latest rumors regarding LeBron James' leaving to join the Los Angeles Lakers after his contract is up in 2018. Irving could be a free agent after the 2018-19 season.

"Like I said, we're in a peculiar place," Irving said. "The best thing we can do is handle things with class and professionalism. Obviously we have a great owner that's willing to spend a little money on guys that he believes in. At this point, we just see what happens throughout the summer."  [si.com]

Part of the reason the Eastern Conference champs are walking such an uncertain path can be attributed the seemingly strange decision to fire GM David Griffin last month – not to mention James' pending free agency. 

That, coupled with his desire to be his team's No. 1 option, is apparently enough to make Irving comfortable with less money and less of a title shot.

Unless, of course, LeBron's recent online flirting with some younger Sixers guards has made him jealous.

Sure, we're all reading way too much into this, but that doesn't make it any less fun for Sixers fans to imagine, What if?


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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