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Cavs Notes

Jim Ingraham: There's no I in team, but there's definitely one in Kyrie

  • Cavaliers-Suns-Basketball-2

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) talks with guard Kyrie Irving, left, during the second half of an NBA game against the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 8, in Phoenix.

    AP PHOTO

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In the pantheon of selfish, shameless, boundless self-infatuation and runaway me, myself and I-ism, Kyrie Irving now stands alone and unconquerable.

He and his BFF: himself.

Cute couple, no?

Crazy kids.

They’ve done it. They’ve gamed the system. If you think Irving’s handle on the court is magisterial, it’s nothing compared to his handle off the court. This is brazen career orchestration on a breathtaking scale.

So, kudos to Ky. Well-played.

Armed only with an unshakable belief in what Reggie Jackson once called “the magnitude of me,” Irving is attempting to reconfigure his place in the basketball galaxy, while simultaneously sending a message of crystal clarity to anyone willing to listen, or with a vested interest in — hello there Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens — what this is all about.

It’s all about him.

In Uncle Drew’s world, it’s not who wins the most games, scores the most points, hoists the most banners or collects the most rings. All that misses the point entirely.

It’s about who’s the biggest deal.

While so many other players and fans are fixated on the creation of the next great super team, Irving alone has seen the future of NBA basketball — and it is him.

And him alone.

That, and that alone, is what this is all about.

Irving forced the Cavs to trade him, not because he wanted to go to a team that won more. Not because he wanted to go to a team that would pay him more. Not because he wanted to play closer to home or with a certain group of friends or for a favorite coach.

Nope.

Irving forced the Cavs to trade him because he wanted to be a bigger deal.

That, incredibly, is it.

Nothing more.

Irving wants to become a basketball Ron Burgundy. So that when he looks at himself in the mirror each morning, he can give a knowing wink and proudly proclaim, “I guess you could say I’m a pretty big deal.”

Irving was never going to be that in Cleveland. Not as long as LeBron James — the biggest deal of all basketball big deals — was around.

So the second-best player on the second-best team in the world artfully maneuvered his way out of that particular rat hole by requesting/demanding that the Cavs trade him out from under the blinding shadow of the world’s greatest player.

The leverage-less but heavily chutzpah-ed Irving even slid a piece of paper across the table to the Cavs, listing four teams to whom he preferred to be dealt.

The Cavs chuckled, balled up that paper, tossed it into the trash can and traded Mr. Me to Boston. Because while Irving saw this as all about him, the Cavs saw it as all about them.

Boston is where the best deal was for Cleveland. So Boston it is. Irving joins a Celtics team led by a coach who — look away, Mr. Me — stresses ball movement and rugged defense.

They’ve just acquired the poster boy for neither.

In exchange for their worst defensive player, the Cavs get arguably the Celtics’ best defensive player, Jae Crowder, one of the toughest dudes in the league, who immediately and emphatically ratchets up the Cavs’ “Whadda you looking at?” quotient.

Crowder also gives the Cavs an anvil to throw at the Warriors’ perimeter game, an on-demand Draymond handler and all-around competitive mixer-upper.

The Cavs also get scoring machine Isaiah Thomas, whose 28.9 points per game last year were almost four points more than Irving. Thomas also averaged more assists (5.9) and had a higher free throw percentage (.909) than Irving. Thomas and Irving are both awful defenders, so that’s a wash.

Thomas’ hip condition better not become a factor or else the Cavs get an “F” in due diligence. Otherwise it’s a Grade A trade for the Cavs. Thomas’ looming free agency is actually a plus, not a minus, because it gives the Cavs strategic flexibility once they know whether LeBron stays or leaves next year.

The clincher is getting the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick in next year’s draft. That could be as high as the first overall pick, but almost certainly will be a top-five pick. That’s valuable basketball currency the Cavs can either use themselves, if LeBron leaves, or trade (if LeBron stays) for another battering ram to help knock down the door to Fortress Warriors.

ESPN.com has already produced a mock draft for next year, which projects the Cavs, with the second overall pick, selecting 6-foot-11 power forward Marvin Bagley — “A terror in the open court” — who is an incoming freshman at Duke.

Give the Cavs credit for not just salvaging, but making the most out of a sticky situation.

Plus, by trading Little Lord Fauntleroy now, the Cavs rid themselves of the distraction his presence and ego were about to become.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.



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