Prognosticators predicted the death knell for the Cavs after they traded Kyrie Irving to the Celtics in the summer of 2017, and LeBron James was one of them. Even with their haul—Isaiah Thomas, fresh off an All-NBA campaign, Jae Crowder on a good deal and the first-round pick that became Colin Sexton—there was no accounting for the loss of the dynamic scoring guard. "Everyone knows that when Kyrie got traded it was the beginning of the end for everything. It’s not a secret,” James said in an interview with Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
In the lede of his piece, Vardon says that when Ty Lue found out Irving was about to be traded, he met LeBron in person and they called GM Koby Altman together. Four separate accounts of the phone call confirm that James was insistent the Cavs refrain from trading their all-star point guard and by the end of the conversation, Altman told James Irving would not be traded.
Mere minutes after they hung up, the Cavs completed the swap. Except, James doesn't blame Altman for lying to him because of his impotence working under Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who has yet to ever extend a general manager—including the man who brought a title to Cleveland for the first time in franchise history, David Griffin.
"You realize at that point in time, take nothing from Koby, because Koby [was just named GM], but at that point in time, you realize that Koby’s not the only one running the team, as [former GM David Griffin] had done, and that’s why Griff was let go pretty much," James said. Unsurprisingly, the Cavs did not participate in Vardon's story, but they did deny that Altman gave LeBron any assurances they wouldn't trade Kyrie, and said LeBron refused to commit long-term if they kept him.
On Wednesday, LeBron returns to Cleveland for the first time since signing with the Lakers in July. He doesn't know what to expect, except to say "it better not be" the venom and contempt he suffered from when he returned with the Heat after leaving in 2010. Since then, he came back to town in 2014 and brought a chip to Cleveland two years later, in perhaps the most exciting Finals in NBA history. Over the summer, he officially opened the "I Promise School" in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, a public high school that provides education and support for thousands of at-risk kids. All of that adds up to a different James homecoming than the menacing scene he played in almost eight years ago.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s negative, because the only thing that matters is what I gave to the city, what I gave to that community, what I’m still giving to that community,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, they have one obligation and that’s to cheer for their team. And I’m not on the team.
"And personally, I’m in a whole different space than I was in 2010, so shit doesn’t bother me."