Kyrie Irving breaks silence on Cavaliers exit: 'They didn't want me there'

If you thought Kyrie Irving and LeBron James weren’t going to give us the satisfaction of lobbing passive-aggressive digs at one another through the media before Wednesday night’s game between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, you are sorely mistaken, because they’re at it again.

Thanks to Hall of Fame basketball writer Jackie MacMullan, who went deep behind Irving’s breakup with James and the Cavs for ESPN.com, we were treated to an exchange between the ex-teammates, delivered 650 miles and a week apart early last month, that captured their relationship perfectly.

First, there was Irving, from the Celtics’ practice facility, on his trade request from the Cavaliers:

“They didn’t want me there,” he says.

And there was James, after a win against the Atlanta Hawks in Cleveland, on Irving’s assertion:

“That makes absolutely no sense,” James declares.

Here they are, still settling their differences through a game of telephone played in print, and so long as they never directly communicate about the issues that ended a partnership that resulted in three Finals appearances and Cleveland’s only basketball title, this drama will continue to envelop the NBA.

23 PHOTOS
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James' relationship through the years
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Kyrie Irving and LeBron James' relationship through the years
Miami Heat forward LeBron James (L) tries to get past Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving in the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida, February 7, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, left, and Miami Heat forward LeBron James stand near one another during the fourth quarter at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Sunday, February 24, 2013. The Heat defeated the Cavaliers 109-105. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
INDEPENDENCE, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Kevin Love #0, Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a photo during media day on September 26, 2014 at the Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dec 2, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) and guard Kyrie Irving (2) react in the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
January 16, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and guard Kyrie Irving (2) react during the 126-121 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK, NY - December 4: Tristan Thompson #13, LeBron James #23 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the national anthem before the game against the New York Knicks on December 4, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 26: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on February 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 10: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers hugs Kyrie Irving #2 after a win against the Chicago Bulls in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cavaliers defeated the Bulls 86-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agress that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 28: Kevin Love #0 Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the Cleveland Cavaliers media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 28, 2015 in Independence, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 2: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers talk on the court during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on January 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 1: LeBron James #23 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after the game against the Indiana Pacers on February 1, 2016 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers speak at a post game press conference after the game against the Toronto Raptors in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 17, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 27: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after a victory in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 27, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 01: LeBron James #23 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers laugh during a conversation at practice for the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 1, 2016 in Oakland, California. The Warriors will take on the Cavaliers on June 2, 2016. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers react during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after winning Game Seven of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on June 19, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: NBA players LeBron James (L) and Kyrie Irving attend the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 15: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates a second half dunk with Kyrie Irving #2 while playing the Indiana Pacers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 15, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 109-108 to take a 1-0 series lead. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 04: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers laugh during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on March 4, 2017 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 09: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers high five against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 9, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes to greet Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics prior to playing at at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics shake hands after a Cavaliers 102-99 victory at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics embrace after a Cavaliers 102-99 victory at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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For us, as basketball fans, we couldn’t ask for anything more. LeBron James, the greatest player of his generation, who has had no peers in the Eastern Conference for seven years running, is looking up in the standings at Kyrie Irving’s Celtics, and Game 2 of their rivalry will air on ESPN Wednesday night.

For them, as people, well, that’s something they’ll have to figure out, if they ever want to. Irving told ESPN’s “First Take” in September that he never communicated his desire to leave Cleveland to James and didn’t much care if the four-time MVP took his silence personally. And James did little on media day to quell rumors of an underlying feud between the two, repeatedly referring to Irving as “the kid.”

We don’t know what was the last straw, although MacMullan confirmed several of our suspicions. “The kid” comments, of course, bothered Irving, his teammates shared. There was Irving’s father, Drederick, who “filled Ky’s head with ideas that we didn’t appreciate him,” a Cavaliers executive added. There was Cleveland’s interest in a mid-June deal that would’ve landed Paul George and Eric Bledsoe for Irving. There was Irving’s belief that James’ camp pushed for that trade. And there was Irving’s own curiosity.

29 PHOTOS
Kyrie Irving through his career
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Kyrie Irving through his career
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 1: Kyrie Irving poses for a portrait after getting introduced as Boston Celtics on September 1, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Duke Blue Devils guard Kyrie Irving (1) shoots against the Hampton Pirates during their second round NCAA men's basketball game in Charlotte, North Carolina March 18, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Kyrie Irving stands with NBA Commissioner David Stern after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark, New Jersey, June 23, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving (2) reacts to making a three point basket in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge game during the NBA All-Star weekend in Orlando, Florida, February 24, 2012. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Cleveland Cavaliers' rookie Kyrie Irving (R) dribbles around Boston Celtics' defender Avery Bradley during the second quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland January 31, 2012. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Kyrie Irving (C) smiles during the U.S. Olympic basketball team practice at UNLV's Mendenhall Center in Las Vegas, Nevada July 6, 2012. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Sam Morris (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL OLYMPICS)
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving brings the ball up court against the New York Knicks in the second quarter of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
East All-Star Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers competes in the three-point contest during the NBA basketball All-Star weekend in Houston, Texas, February 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
NBA All-Star LeBron James of the Miami Heat (6) and teammates Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks (7,) Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers look up at the clock in the fourth quarter of the NBA All-Star basketball game in Houston, Texas, February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Dec 10, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) drives against New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton (2) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
January 16, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) moves the ball up court against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Kyrie Irving of the U.S. (L) goes up for a basket past Slovenia's Edo Muric during their Basketball World Cup quarter-final game in Barcelona September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Dec 2, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) and guard Kyrie Irving (2) react in the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 30, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) shoots as Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) defends during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) attempts a shot against Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) during the second quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
May 12, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with guard Kyrie Irving (2) after a 106-101 win over the Chicago Bulls in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 11, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Team USA guard Kyrie Irving takes a shot during the USA men's basketball national team minicamp at Mendenhall Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) and guard Mario Chalmers (6) celebrate after Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) missed a game-tying basket as time expired at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
June 1, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) addresses the media in a press conference during NBA Finals media day at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
June 2, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) shoots against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half in game two of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and guard Kyrie Irving (2) look during a press conference after game four of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena. The Warriors won 108-97. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love, JR Smith and Tristan Thompson arrive home to a welcome party in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk
2016 Rio Olympics - Basketball - Main Press Centre - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 04/08/2016. Kyrie Irving (USA) of the U.S. attends a news conference. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
2016 Rio Olympics - Basketball - Quarterfinal - Men's Quarterfinal USA v Argentina - Carioca Arena 1 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 17/8/2016. Kyrie Irving (USA) of the USA and Facundo Campazzo (ARG) of Argentina compete. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Feb 19, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Western Conference forward Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors (35), Eastern Conference forward Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers (2) and Western Conference guard Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors (30) talk in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) drives against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) in the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 25, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) reacts after a play during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Quicken Loans Arena. The Wizards won 127-115. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 1: Kyrie Irving talks to the media as he gets introduced as Boston Celtics on September 1, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 28: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the game against the Houston Rockets on December 28, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Then, there was the actual basketball part. “[Playing with LeBron] has its positives,” Irving told MacMullan, “and it also comes with responsibilities. It was clear to me that we needed each other.”

And Irving, it seems, felt as though LeBron didn’t reciprocate that sentiment. Maybe Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue didn’t, either. MacMullan detailed an argument the two had during a practice last season:

“Ky,” Lue said, “I want you to play a little faster.”

“Why?” Irving asked.

“Because if we play faster, we get shots off easier.”

“I don’t need to play faster to get my shot off,” Irving replied. “I can do that anytime.”

“I’m not talking about your shot. I’m talking about RJ and JR,” Lue said, citing teammates Richard Jefferson and Smith.

“Well, that’s No. 23’s job,” Irving replied, referring to James.

That makes Irving sound like a dink, and to his credit, he informed MacMullan he would “like a do-over on that,” before proceeding to take another subtle dig at his old coach: “I was trying to figure out where I fit in and at the same time asking myself, ‘What’s best for the team?’ Sometimes, I didn’t know the answer. I had to figure it out on my own. It wasn’t like I was getting answers from everyone else.”

29 PHOTOS
LeBron James through the years
See Gallery
LeBron James through the years
File photo of high school basketball star LeBron James getting set for a foul shot during the annual Jordan Capital Classic high school all-star game in Washington, April 17, 2003. James will hold a press conference at his high shool in Akron, Ohio April 25, 2003, where he is expected to state his intentions concerning the upcoming NBA draft. James is expected to be the number one pick should he make himself available for the draft. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn-Files GMH/HB
Lebron James announces his entrance into the NBA draft, during a press conference at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, April 25, 2003. The six-foot-eight James, 18, is expected by many to be the number one selection in the draft on June 26. REUTERS/Jason Cohn JC/HB
LeBron James (R) shakes hands with National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden in New York, June 26, 2003. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton PM
Cleveland Cavaliers first draft pick LeBron James speaks with reporters following a picture session at Gund Arena, in Cleveland, October 2, 2003. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz RK/ME
Cleveland Cavalier rookie forward LeBron James (23) shoots over New Orleans Hornets defenders Baron Davis (1) and David Wesley (4), in the fourth period of NBA action in Cleveland, Ohio, December 23, 2003. James 22 points was the high scorer for the Cavaliers who defeated the Hornets 97-86. REUTERS/Marc Serota MS
Paul Pierce (R) of the Boston Celtics and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers chat while the scoreboard is fixed during the fourth quarter of their game at Gund Arena, February 9, 2004. The Cavaliers won, 97-89. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz RK
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (C) gets a layup as Seattle Supersonics forward Rashad Lewis (L) and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki look on, during the first half of the 54th NBA All-Star Game in Denver, February 20, 2005. REUTERS/John Gress JM
Eastern Conference forward LeBron James holds the Most Valuable Player trophy at the 55th NBA All-Star Game in Houston, Texas February 19, 2006. The East defeated the Western Conference 122-120. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James questions a call during their NBA playoff game against the Washington Wizards in Washington May 5, 2006 Cleveland defeated Washington, 114-113, to advance in the NBA playoffs. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Forward LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, works on his jump shot at morning practice during the first day of training camp for the USA men's basketball team in Las Vegas July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) shoots over New York Knicks forward Quentin Richardson (L) and guard Stephon Marbury (R) in the fourth quarter of their NBA basketball game in New York's Madison Square Garden, November 13, 2006. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James is seen on the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, California, February 15, 2007. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James goes through his pregame powder ritual prior to the start of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first round NBA playoff basketball game in Cleveland, Ohio April 25, 2007. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James answers media questions before practice for their NBA Finals basketball series against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio, Texas, June 8, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (L) celebrates after dunking against the New Orleans Hornets David West during the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Louisiana February 17, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (L) is guarded by Chicago Bulls Thabo Sefolosha (R) during the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland, April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James drives to the basket during the third quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland January 9, 2009. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James sits with his girlfriend Savana Brinson and son Bryce Maximus during the Rookie Challenge at the NBA All-Star basketball weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James speaks after being named the NBA Most Valuable Player during a ceremony at his alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio May 4, 2009. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James celebrates after Mario Chalmers scored a three pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, December 25, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James (R) stands with Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James watches a shot against the Dallas Mavericks through the net during the second half in Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 2, 2011. REUTERS/David J. Phillip/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James dunks against the Washington Wizards in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James speaks at a press conference after his team defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami, Florida June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Dec 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) makes a pass against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wears an " I Can't Breathe" t-shirt during warm ups prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets in Brooklyn, New York, December 8, 2014. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
June 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James speaks to media following the 104-91 loss against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 21: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers pauses on the court during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Quicken Loans Arena on January 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Spurs defeated the Cavaliers 118-115. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Read between the lines, though, and Irving will again confirm your suspicions about the trade request: He felt the Cavs weren’t maximizing his potential, leaving him to work off the ball and in isolation, rather than as a true point guard. Of course, Lue had every reason to relegate Irving to a secondary option, since LeBron Freaking James, one of the greatest playmakers in NBA history, was on his roster.

So, maybe, as Irving suggested, his exit was “inevitable,” because Cleveland wasn’t big enough for the two of them. Let’s just be thankful it happened the way it did, with Irving landing on a Celtics team that may be the Cavs’ equal and not with a Phoenix Suns squad that wouldn’t have been quite the foil.

Because now, when Irving says stuff like this about whether James considered him an equal — “I don’t know if he did or not, but I don’t really care. I didn’t lose any sleep over it” — we are treated to a primetime matchup between the two foes as their teams battle for Eastern Conference supremacy.

This should be fun.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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