Are the Cavaliers going to be able to make it back to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight time next season now that the team has traded Kyrie Irving to their conference rival, the Celtics? Most NBA fans think that having LeBron James on their roster will give Cleveland more than enough to get back to the Finals. But during his appearance on Everyday Struggle on Friday, Iman Shumpert said he’s not so sure that’s going to be the case.
DJ Akademiks asked Shumpert whether or not he thinks the Kyrie-less Cavaliers will be a good enough team to return to the Finals, and the Cavaliers star was quick to point out how important Irving was to the team during recent playoff runs. From picking up the slack when LeBron was having an off game to giving the Cavs a boost when LeBron needed a break, Irving did a little bit of everything for Cleveland when they needed it most. And Shumpert said it’s going to be hard to replace that once the postseason comes back around.
"It’s going to be harder," Shumpert said. "You got to think: We leaned on Kyrie for a lot of things. There’s a lot of times where our play calls, the other coaching staff has put together a game plan that is really dismissing our play calls. Like, we can’t get nothing done because their defensive scheme is really good. And maybe we’ve used LeBron and ran him into the ground the first three quarters and maybe he’s just dog-tired right now and… maybe he can’t pull a 12-0 run out his ass on his own because he been rebounding, dribbling out, guarding 4s and 5s even though he should be guarding a 3—he’s doing a lot and he don’t have the energy right now. And Kyrie got energy and he don’t need a play. He don’t need a ball screen. You can send two people at him, that don’t matter. He can really do that. That’s his gift. So we leaned on that. Plenty of games, we should lose the game. We gave that man the ball and everybody went to the left side of the court and we watched Kyrie win the game."
Shumpert also said that he feels as though NBA fans sometimes forget just how good Irving really is, which he believes may have factored into Kyrie's decision to ask the Cavaliers to trade him.
"Y’all forgetting that Kyrie did that before he met LeBron," he said. "I’m not saying he was winning, but as far as getting a bucket? He’s really good at it now. You gotta realize: He learned how to share it. He played them games where LeBron didn’t have a good game and Kyrie took the attention off Bron and then Bron had a good game at the end. He’s grown. It’s like, he’s not taking [being traded] as 'Eff LeBron! I don’t fuck with that nigga!' I think it’s more of 'I learned. We won together. I want something different.'"
Elsewhere in the interview, Shumpert addressed Irving’s recent trade to the Celtics and said that he "didn’t expect it to happen how it happened." But he also downplayed all of the media reports surrounding Irving’s supposedly fractured relationship with LeBron and said that Irving asking for a trade was more of a basketball decision than a personal one.
"This isn’t just a Kyrie/LeBron thing," Shumpert said. "The media will turn it into that for y’all, and that’s what I mean about the internet. It’s the story. That’s the clicks. 'LeBron and Kyrie hate each other!' No. It’s two dudes that need the ball. LeBron needs the ball. Kyrie needs the ball. Kevin [Love] needs the ball. [J.R. Smith] can’t shoot unless he has the ball. Kyle Korver can’t shoot unless he has the ball. I love getting to the basket and dunking, but if I get the ball so that I can make sure I get my 20 a game, that takes away from LeBron’s 40 that you want LeBron to score. It takes away from Kyrie’s 40. It takes away from Kevin’s 40. Somebody got to get the short end. And it’s like, a lot of times, fans can’t all the way understand that. They think it’s 2K. 'Bron can score 40. Kyrie can score 40. Iman should have 20. J.R. should have 30.' It’s like, dog, it don’t work like that."
You can watch Shumpert talk about the Irving trade, the Cavaliers’ chance of making another run to the Finals, and more starting at around the 54:45 mark of the clip above.