Kyrie praises LeBron, says he sought trade so he can take next step

September 2, 2017 - 10:34 AM
Jun 1, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving warms up before game one of the Finals for the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kyrie Irving admitted he has not spoken with LeBron James since being traded to the Boston Celtics but he praised his former teammate with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 25-year-old Irving called playing three seasons with James as “awesome” and told reporters at his introductory press conference in Boston on Friday that “I learned so much from that guy.”

The blockbuster trade sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick and the Miami Heat’s 2020 second-round pick in exchange for Irving, a four-time All-Star point guard.

Gordon Hayward also was introduced after the former Utah Jazz forward signed a four-year, $128 million free agent contract with the Celtics in July.

Irving had requested a trade in July.

”My intent, like I said, was for my best intentions,“ Irving said. ”To look back at the amount of ground we covered in the last three-year span … to really realize how special that was and how much stuff happened in that amount of time, I’d be sitting up here and telling you guys a lie if I didn’t tell you I learned so much from that guy.

“I’ve had the unique opportunity to play with one of the greats and it was awesome. At times it was all over, just like it is in any other team, and when you look back and you’re eternally grateful for the moments that you had and you shared, you’re able to put peace with that journey and start anew.”

Irving averaged a career-high 25.2 points and 5.8 assists last season. He has three years and $60 million remaining on his contract.

”It was my time to do what was best for me in terms of my intentions, and that’s going after something bigger than myself, and obviously being in an environment that was conducive for my potential,“ Irving said. ”I think that statement is just self-explanatory, because it’s pretty direct in terms of what my intent is — it’s to be happy and be with a group of individuals that I can grow with. That’s not a knock on anything that has transpired in my six years (in Cleveland), because it was an unbelievable experience.

“Me leaving there wasn’t about basketball, it was more or less about creating that foundation of me in Cleveland, and then now taking this next step as a 25-year-old evolving man and being the best basketball player I can be.”