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Jim Ingraham: Keeping Kyrie Irving might be the Cavaliers' best option

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The question the Cavs must ask themselves regarding renegade point guard Kyrie Irving is this: “How much of our nose do we want to cut off to spite our face?”

It’s been a few weeks now since Irving sent the needle on the audacity meter spinning out of control by not only asking the Cavs to trade him, but giving them a list of his preferred destinations.

This from a player with absolutely no leverage at all.

Irving, who still has two years left on his contract, apparently was the only person in Cleveland who was unhappy when LeBron James returned to the Cavs, shortly after Irving signed a max contract with the understanding that HE would be The Man in this rodeo.

I’m no lawyer, but this looks like your basic, “Hang with ’em, kid.”

If Irving should be upset with anyone, it’s his agent for not negotiating a “The Man” clause in his contract, stating that if at any time during the course of the contract the Cavs acquired a player better than Irving, the contract is null and void, and the Cavs must immediately trade Irving to one of five “The Man” deficient teams of his choice.

Absent a trade, Irving is legally doomed to have to endure the misery of two more years of playing with the best team in the Eastern Conference, two more years of reaching the NBA Finals, possibly winning one, and two more years of adoring fans and basketball cognoscenti from coast to coast raving about his otherworldly handle, crossover, penetration and finishing skills.

Poor guy.

That, of course, is the hard-line, old-school approach, which is one of the options for the Cavs. Another option is to trade Irving, the sooner the better. But that’s easier said than done, because Irving is one of the few players who actually might be too good to trade, because of how hard it will be to get equal value back.

Could, for example, Andrew Wiggins hit that Game 7 pressure-cooked 3-pointer from the right wing over Steph Curry to win Cleveland’s first championship in over half a century?

Could Eric Bledsoe weave his way through the Warriors’ defense and then finish with a left-handed spinner over Draymond Green, off the glass, while falling over the baseline? At crunch time?

The Cavs would probably prefer a couple of players and a high draft pick for Irving, but at this point a draft pick becomes a player to be named later, and is of no use to the Cavs for the coming season.

That’s important, because the Cavs are built to win now, and it’s hard to envision a trade that jettisons Irving and makes the Cavs better for the coming season.

Except defensively, where Irving can be a ghost to the point that if and when the Irving trade takes place, an apt headline would be: “Cavs Trade Their Worst Defensive Player.”

But, of course, Irving is also the Cavs’ most important and unstoppable offensive player, after LeBron.

So as unlikely as it seems, maybe the best approach to this sticky dilemma is to do nothing. Just keep Irving.

The argument for that goes something like this: Even with an unhappy Irving, the Cavs are still a better team with him than without him.

Keep him, and assume he’ll play at his expected level, as a good teammate and winning player, at the risk, should he not, of exposing himself further as the ultimate selfish me-first player, with teams potentially interested in him duly noting as much.

Certainly, the Cavs’ chemistry might be challenged by having a disgruntled employee not only on the roster, but playing point guard. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, during parts of last year’s playoffs, Irving wasn’t speaking to his teammates.

That silence might be deafening if the Cavs choose not to honor Irving’s trade request, and the potential deteriorating environment that could exist should a grumpy Irving be on the team when the season starts is very real. Fan reaction to Irving at The Q might not be very warm and fuzzy. But whose fault would that be: Irving for creating the situation or the Cavs for not caving in to it?

That’s what makes this such a dilemma.

What if the Cavs choose to wait a year, to see if LeBron stays, before they trade Irving? If LeBron leaves, Irving becomes The Man. Maybe even a happy one. Or does that strategy risk LeBron leaving only because he can’t stand playing with Irving?

This is a unique situation, from which, for the Cavs, there are multiple escape routes — none of them attractive.

Maybe their best approach, therefore, should be doing what’s best for the team solely for the coming season.

If so, it’s hard to imagine how subtracting Irving gets them closer to beating the Warriors in next year’s Finals.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.

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