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Kyrie Irving blames himself, lack of maturity on Cleveland Cavaliers breakup

Vincent Frank

Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving has spent the past several weeks looking back at what has been a sellar career for the future Hall of Famer.

This comes after his Nets were swept out of the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs by his former Boston Celtics team. Irving, 30, has looked in the mirror since said defeat to call himself out in a way. Previously, that included how his stance against the COVID-19 vaccine impacted the Nets during the 2021-22 campaign.

Irving is now looking back at his days with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He spent six seasons with the Cavaliers, helping them to three NBA Finals appearances and one title in the process, before he requested a trade ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.

In talking about his time with the Cavaliers and a very public divorce with the organization, Irving explained that his lack of maturity played a role in the organization failing to win more than one title.

Related: Kyrie Irving and the top-50 NBA players of 2022

Kyrie Irving talks maturity level, Cleveland Cavaliers tenure

kyrie irving, cleveland cavaliers, lebron james
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

“If I was in the same maturity line and understanding of who I am, and I look back, we definitely, definitely would’ve won more championships, because there would’ve been a better man-to-man understanding about what I’m going through. I didn’t know how to share my emotions. I didn’t know how to do that. So instead of sharing, I isolated myself.”

Kyrie Irving on his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, via “I Am Athlete”

It was a surprise to many that Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers after a third consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals and just one year removed from leading them to their only championship.

When he asked out of Cleveland, Irving admits that he didn’t even speak with LeBron James before meeting with the team’s brass and the report becoming public.

“We (LeBron) didn’t talk during that time. When I look back on what I was going through at that time, I wish I did, because it would’ve been a good understanding of what the future will hold for both of us and we know how much power we both had together,” Irving said. “Me and him in the league together running Cleveland, and then being able to put a better team together every single year would’ve definitely been worth it.”

Ultimately, Irving was dealt to the Boston Celtics as LeBron remained in Cleveland for one more season — only to be swept out by the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals.

It’s one of those questions that will be asked over time. How good could have the Cavaliers been if King James and Kyrie Irving stayed together for the long haul? Could they have dethroned the dynastic Warriors?

Following the divorce, both James and Irving threw shots at one another through the public — creating a belief that their off-court relationship had soured. For Irving, that was far from the case. The guard explained that he wanted to create his own imprint on the league and it was only basketball related. It wasn’t personal.

Related: Kyrie Irving trade scenarios

Kyrie Irving now on unsound footing with the Brooklyn Nets

NBA: Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Fast forward roughly five years, and Irving is in a similar situation after three seasons with the Nets. He was the face of major drama in Brooklyn during the 2021-22 campaign, primarily due to the fact that the seven-time All-Star missed a majority of the season due to his stance against getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

New York City mandates previously required that those attending large-scale indoor events had to be vaccinated. In turn, the Nets opted to keep Irving away from he team through December. He then played road games until NYC ended its mandate. This had an impact on the Nets’ on-court success, especially given the injury-plagued season teammate Kevin Durant suffered through.

“I think it was just really heavy emotionally this season. We all felt it. I felt like I was letting the team down at a point where I wasn’t able to play.”

Kyrie Irving afer Brooklyn Nets’ elimination

Boasting a $36.5 million player option for the 2022-23 season, Irving can opt out and become a free agent this summer. The NBA champion has made it clear he wants to return to the Nets and help Kevin Durant bring a title to the Big Apple.

With that said, Brooklyn’s brass might not be so sold on the idea. In his season-ending press conference, general manager Sean Marks laid ino Irving in a big way.

“He has some decisions to make on his own. We’re looking for guys that want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, play team basketball, and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but everybody here.”

Sean Marks on whether the Nets are committed to Kyrie Irving

When on the court and 100% there, Irving is still among the best players in the game. He’s shown that during his three-year run with the Nets.

  • Kyrie Irving stats (2019-21): 27.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 49% shooting, 41% 3-point

The question now becomes whether Irving has matured enough to handle the Big Apple’s spotlight. That remains to be seen. And in reality, it could have an impact on whether he returns to the Nets for a fourth season.