July 26th: Holding A Franchise Hostage

This past week, Kyrie Irving asked the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade him. Apparently, playing with the greatest player in basketball (perhaps ever) doesn’t suit him, especially when it means losing so much vacation time playing in May and June. In a league where players are all scrambling to join forces on super teams, Irving wants to take his one-man-show to a destination all by himself.

The baffling part of the story is that, after asking for a trade, the Cavaliers seem to be shopping in order to make a deal. The NBA is one of the only industries in the world where you can make outlandish demands of your employer with relative certainty that you will get what you want. Of course, the Cavaliers don’t HAVE to agree to trade Irving, but a disgruntled star’s performance is unlikely to be more valuable than any of the possible players that could come back to Cleveland in a trade.

KyrieThis doesn’t bode well at all for Cleveland. With rumors already swirling about LeBron James leaving next summer as a free agent, the Cavs could very quickly go from being the three-straight Conference Champions to a franchise struggling to regain an identity. Kyrie Irving’s demand only accelerates that process.

Irving isn’t the only player who has put his team in a bad spot because of a demand for a change of scenery. Carmelo Anthony has made it known not only that he wants out of New York, but that he specifically wants to play in Houston, putting incredible pressure on the Knicks. Paul George’s desire to play for the Lakers in the future forced the Pacers to trade him, for fear of losing him to free agency with nothing in return. The NBA offseason continues to leave teams scrambling to fill out a roster before contracts change the game again and again, while the players look out for their own self-interests with demands and threats.

The 2017 offseason has seen a collection of teams amassing talent while others are forced to rebuild. A season after one of the least dramatic playoffs in recent memory will show a small collection of powerhouse teams clashing, while almost all competition takes place in the Western Conference. Power dynamics are all out of whack, even before we consider the whims of what a particular player wants.

Kyrie Irving’s trade demand is selfish and damaging to the Cleveland fans and the league as a whole. The nature of a contract is that he is expected to play for the team for a certain duration of time, with the freedom to choose a new home when it expires. Trade rumors and speculation may be fun in the short term and get people talking about the sport while it isn’t on TV, but this kind of hijacking of a team can prove dangerous for a franchise that, until recently, was hoping to build a tradition of success.

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