The entire NBA community was shocked earlier this summer when Kyrie Irving requested to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Spending the first six seasons of his career in Cleveland, Irving made it clear that he wanted out of town, and the organization obliged, trading him to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and two draft picks.
Ahead of Tuesday night’s regular-season opener between the Cavaliers and Celtics, perhaps the biggest question is how the home crowd will treat Irving, who recently made it clear that he already prefers playing in Boston over Cleveland because it is a "real sports city".
On one hand, Irving might have completely unraveled Cleveland’s chances at an NBA title this season and beyond. There’s no guarantee that their new star-studded roster will click. If they fail to contend, LeBron James could certainly elect to leave next summer, throwing the entire organization into chaos. If Irving stayed put, LeBron might have appreciated the stability and chose to stay himself.
On the other hand, Irving was one of the major driving forces in making Cleveland a perennial contender. Most of all, he played a sidekick role to LeBron in the franchise’s first-ever championship in 2015. Therefore, he might still have a special place in the hearts of certain fans.
A safe bet is that there will be some boos and some cheers simultaneously, but it’s generally presumed that there will be more boos heard based on the way he left and his recent comments which has added more fuel to the fire.
LeBron and Dwyane Wade sat down with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols recently and discussed the situation in a segment that aired during Monday Night Football on ESPN.
"Everybody's good. Everybody's good," James told Nichols regarding Irving as he downplayed Irving’s first homecoming, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin. ”KD [Kevin Durant] last year in Oklahoma City, Paul George going to go back to Indiana, you know, D-Wade's going to go to Chicago, Kyrie's coming back to Cleveland. No [it will not compare].”
It also seems like James is willing to put the past behind him and focus on the future.
"At the end of the day, the kid did what he wanted to do," James said. "That was his destiny. Like I said, you know, the three years that we had together, unbelievable three years, and, you know, I wish we could have continued that, but it didn't work itself out. So, now my energy is to the guys that's, you know, in The Land."
Regardless of how he’s initially accepted, the Cavaliers plan on playing a video tribute for Irving at some point during Tuesday’s game, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Therefore, the organization seems to have graciously turned the page.
All eyes will be on Irving and LeBron as the two former teammates will take the floor against each other for the first time. Emotions will be running high, even if James already tried to downplay the moment.