In a four-minute video posted on his Instagram account Thursday, Kyrie Irving thanked Cavaliers fans and his former teammates, but never mentioned LeBron James by name.
The delayed trade that sent Irving to Boston — the Cavs ultimately received Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, a 2018 first-round pick that originally belonged to Brooklyn and a 2020 second-rounder the Celtics had acquired from Miami — was finalized late Wednesday.
Irving requested a trade in July, when numerous reports said he told Cavs owner Dan Gilbert he wanted to grow as a player and be the focal point of a team.
That wasn’t going to happen with James, a four-time league MVP, in Cleveland.
“You understand the magnitude of decisions that you make in your life can affect a lot of people all at once,” the 25-year-old Irving said in the video. “And when you get to that point and you understand that the best intentions for you and ultimately to be in your truth, and find out what you really want to do in your life and how you want to accomplish it, the moment comes and you take full advantage of it.
“There are no other ulterior reasons other than being happy and to somewhere you feel like it’s an environment that’s conducive for you maximizing your potential.”
Irving’s trade request came after six seasons with the Cavs, with whom he appeared in the last three NBA Finals and hit the game-winning 3-pointer that led Cleveland to a championship in 2016.
The Cavs and Celtics originally announced a trade Aug. 22, but when a physical on Thomas’ injured hip led to some concerns on Cleveland’s part, the deal’s finalization was delayed until Wednesday, when Boston agreed to add the Heat’s second-round pick in 2020.
In his video, which represented the point guard’s first public comments since asking to be traded, Irving thanked the Cavs, Gilbert and other members of Cleveland’s ownership group for taking “a chance on a 19-year-old kid that was coming off a stubbed right toe, of being in a very, very immature place at the time.”
The Cavs made Irving the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft but never came close to making the playoffs in his first three seasons in Cleveland. When James returned in 2014, he combined with Irving, Kevin Love and others to lead the Cavs to three straight Eastern Conference titles.
Irving, who earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors and made four All-Star teams while in Cleveland, spoke eloquently of what it was like to play with James during the 2017 Finals, but didn’t mention him by name in the video.
“To my teammates: Crazy stories, crazy experiences and just unbelievable human beings, man,” Irving said. “You all know how this brotherhood goes, man. All love.”
After the Cavs scrapped plans to pay for half of a $140 million upgrade to Quicken Loans Arena on Monday, some fans speculated Gilbert might move the franchise when his lease expires in 2027.
“CLE, Let’s put any silly rumors to rest: I will never move the Cleveland Cavaliers out of Cleveland,” Gilbert posted on Twitter. “Period. And that’s unconditional.”
The improvement project was originally scheduled to begin soon after the 2017 NBA Finals, but community groups complained about the use of tax money and succeeded in getting a referendum, which likely would have led to putting the issue on the ballot, probably in 2018. The Cavs then announced they had scrapped their plans, saying the delay and increased interest rates would drive up the cost of the project.
But Thursday, the Greater Cleveland Congregations withdrew petitions challenging the deal, leaving the Cavs optimistic another agreement can be reached. The NBA has deemed improvements are necessary to The Q, which opened in October 1994 as Gund Arena, before the league will award Cleveland with a future All-Star Game.
“We are very encouraged by this new development to the private-public partnership plan to transform The Q for the long term,” Cavs CEO Len Komoroski said in a statement. “We are reviewing the impact of this change and discussing it further with the county, the city and others.”
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