Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has seemingly confirmed longstanding rumors that Kyrie Irving threatened to undergo knee surgery in order to secure a trade out of Cleveland prior to the 2017-18 season.
"The agent was telling us, if we don't trade him, there is some surgery he is on the borderline of having on his knee," Gilbert told Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. "It was possible he could be out for most of the year. It turned out to be true."
Irving was eventually dealt to the Boston Celtics, but nearly two years after the trade, Gilbert sees the move as a win for his team.
"We could have ended up with nothing," he said. "Looking back after all the moves (general manager) Koby (Altman) made, we killed it in that trade."
The blockbuster deal eventually netted Cleveland a potential foundational piece in guard Collin Sexton - who was recently named to the NBA's All-Rookie second team. Meanwhile, the Celtics could lose Irving in free agency this summer. If the 27-year-old leaves Boston, the Celtics will only have a 2020 second-round pick to show for their trade for the star point guard.
The Cavs also acquired backup center Ante Zizic, while the other two main components of the trade - Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder - were eventually dealt in a series of win-now moves that were a trademark of LeBron James' second stint in Cleveland.
"With LeBron, there was a limited shelf life in terms of his age and his contract commitment," Gilbert said. "It's a win now at all costs ... It all revolves around the sun, which is him.
"Whatever pressure comes with it, it worked out. We won a title."
Cleveland's urgency paid off with four straight Finals appearances from 2014-18 and the franchise's lone NBA championship during the 2015-16 season.
James bolted for the Los Angeles Lakers after declining his $35-million player option for the 2018-19 season. Cleveland went on to finish the campaign with the Association's second-worst record at 19-63.