LeBron James discussed the Cavaliers' front office structure in relation to how it helped lead to Kyrie Irving's departure.
In an interview with Joe Vardon of The Athletic, LeBron James dished on the conversation he had with Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman before Kyrie Irving was traded to the Celtics last year, as well as what type of reception he expects in his return to Cleveland on Wednesday as a Laker.
According to James and others who Vardon spoke with, Altman told James on Aug. 22, 2017 he would not trade Irving to the Celtics after James talked with the general manger on the phone and expressed his desire to not move Irving. News of the deal to Boston was reported just minutes after the two finished their conversation, which was organized by then-Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, who was in California like James was at the time.
James explained to The Athletic that he didn't feel like Altman lied to him because he thought the final say on the move came from team owner Dan Gilbert and not the general manager who was just a few months into the job at that time.
"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 told The Athletic.
The Cavaliers front office refuted the idea that Altman informed James the team would not trade Irving, and added that when the team asked James if he would commit long-term if Irving stayed around, James said no.
Whether or not James would have remained in Cleveland instead of venturing to Los Angeles this past summer if Irving stayed will never be known, but James did say Irving's trade marked the end of what the Cavaliers had established since James's return in 2014.
"Everyone knows that when Kyrie got traded it was the beginning of the end for everything," James told The Athletic. "It’s not a secret."
James added that his move to the Lakers felt like his "next step." Irving told reporters Monday he was "done commenting on anything in Cleveland."
On Wednesday, James will play in Cleveland as a member of the Lakers for the first time and only time this season. He said he does not expect his reception to be as ugly as it was in 2010 when he came back as a member of the Miami Heat, and he doesn't care if there are some boos.
"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 told The Athletic. "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 s--- doesn't bother me."
James is in his 16th NBA season. He is averaging 28.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.9 assists for the 9-7 Lakers.