As Irving reportedly did not want to play another season with James, he threatened to undergo knee surgery. After a month, the Cavaliers ultimately traded him to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a 2018 first round draft pick (Collin Sexton).
Although it was a solid return for Irving considering the request, Thomas and Crowder were poor fits alongside James and were moved at the trade deadline.
While James made his eighth consecutive Finals appearance, he felt the Irving trade was the beginning of the end, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
“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 The Athletic.
It has been previously reported James informed the Cavaliers not to trade Irving in hopes of repairing the relationship. As the best player in the league today, James has a significant influence on a team’s decisions, but owner Dan Gilbert still traded Irving to the Celtics.
With James signing a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, they have gotten off to a 9-7 record. While the Lakers have shown improvement, James recently admitted he nearly ‘cracked’ during the early season struggles.
As president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are looking to build a sustainable championship contender, they will have $38 million in 2019 free agency. While there are numerous All-Star players available, James’ shadow reportedly ‘looms too large’ for Kawhi Leonard.