When James re-signed with Cleveland in July 2014, he appeared unlikely ever to depart Northeast Ohio a second time. In his first-person essay with Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins announcing his return to the Cavs, James emphasized “my calling here goes above basketball.”
Much has changed since then, though. The Cavaliers won their first title, which cemented James’ legacy.
Perhaps more importantly, an organization that was rarely a model for the rest of the league has been thrown into disarray this summer.
The Cavs jettisoned general manager David Griffin, who helped build a team that reached three straight NBA Finals. In his place comes Koby Altman, who is only 34 and spent one season as the assistant GM before getting the top job.
Since they waited so long to formally hire Altman, the Cavaliers were without a general manager who could get a Jimmy Butler or Paul Georgetrade across the line. Both players ended up elsewhere.
Compounding matters, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reported in July that four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving is seeking a trade out of Cleveland.
James turns 33 in December, so it’s understandable if he’d want to spend the remainder of his NBA career in a more stable atmosphere. And Cleveland’s front office may already be bracing for him to leave after the 2017-18 season.
ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Cavs see trading Irving as an opportunity to acquire a young star around whom they can build for the future, rather than add a ready-made talent who can bolster their title hopes with James in the short term.