The Cleveland Cavaliers easily knocked off the Detroit Pistons in four games, then the Hawks in four straight to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals of this year's playoffs and they are the heavy favorites to once again represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. However, 2015-16 hasn't been all sunshine and daisies in Cleveland. The team has had a tumultuous year that saw head coach David Blatt fired midseason despite posting an East best 30-11 record. There was much blame heaped on LeBron James for Blatt's dismissal and his replacement, rookie head coach Tyronn Lue, has had his abilities questioned. General manager David Griffin also questioned the Cavaliers' lack of "spirit and connectedness". Amid all of that, also rose reports that point guard Kyrie Irving was unhappy and wanted out.
Irving, of course, denied the reports, but this isn't the first time it's been suggested he'd rather leave Cleveland. Rumors of his unhappiness first sprouted up a few years ago, but they seemed to die down in 2014 after the team brought back LeBron James and traded for Kevin Love. Irving, may not be alone in his displeasure. There's been much talk that Kevin Love is unhappy and it remains to be seen if James' homecoming will last beyond this season -speculation of his departure has only been fueled by his decision to unfollow his own team on Twitter.
Star players wanting a change of scenery isn't anything new in the NBA, although it is unusual to see so many players on one team potentially wanting out, especially on a team with a legitimate shot at winning a championship. It's a league old problem and some of the greatest players in the game have, at one point or another, wanted off of their team.
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20 Hedo Turkoglu
After helping the Orlando Magic to an NBA Finals appearance in 2009, Hedo Turkoglu capitalized on his success by agreeing to a five year, $53 million contract with the Toronto Raptors and joining the team in a four-team sign and trade. Turkoglu's lone season in Toronto would end up being a disaster. He averaged just 11.3 points per game – his lowest total since the 2003-04 season – and was benched for partying at a nightclub after missing a game with a stomach virus. After the season, Turkoglu expressed his frustration in an interview in his native Turkey, claiming Raptors management had wronged him and he wanted out of Toronto.
That July, the Raptors dealt Turkoglu to the Phoenix Suns for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones. He played just 25 games with the Suns before being dealt back to the Magic.
19 Alonzo Mourning
After playing the prime years of his career with the Miami Heat, Alonzo Mourning had a kidney transplant and was limited to just 30 games during parts of two seasons with the New Jersey Nets. Mourning let his unhappiness and demand to be traded out of New Jersey be well known and midway through the 2004-05 season he was dealt to the Toronto Raptors in the Vince Carter trade. However, Mourning refused to report to the team, leaving them no other choice but to buy out the remainder of his contract at $9 million. Mourning then re-joined the Miami Heat at the league minimum salary.
18 Josh Smith
Drafted 17th overall by the Hawks in 2004, the high flying Josh Smith became one of the league's premier shot blockers in Atlanta, but the team never made it beyond the second round of the playoffs during his tenure. After the Hawks' Eastern Conference Semifinal exit in 2011, rumors began to surface that Smith was unhappy and would prefer a trade to a contender. After the 2011 lockout ended, his agent reportedly approached the team to demand a trade, but a deal never materialized. Smith played out his contract with the Hawks and became a free agent in the summer of 2013, signing with the Detroit Pistons.
17 Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury played parts of his first three NBA seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves before demanding a trade during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. His official reason for wanting out was a desire to be closer to home, but reports suggested that he may have wanted to play in a larger market to capitalize on endorsement deals or that he was jealous of Kevin Garnett's large contract. Whatever the reason was, the Timberwolves obliged and dealt Marbury to the Nets in a three team deal that brought Sam Cassell and a first round draft pick from New Jersey and Terrell Brandon from Milwaukee to Minnesota.
Marbury became an All-Star in New Jersey and had the highest scoring seasons of his career with the Nets, but the team missed the postseason in each of his three seasons there. In the summer of 2001, they shipped him to the Phoenix Suns in a deal for Jason Kidd.
16 Baron Davis
The Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets reached the playoffs in each of Baron Davis' first five NBA seasons, but never made it out of the second round. Davis grew tired of the team's lack of postseason success and went to management prior to the 2004-05 season to demand a trade to a contender to give himself a better shot at winning a championship. The Hornets eventually agreed to deal Davis to the Golden State Warriors for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis.
While the trade didn't exactly work out for the Hornets who missed the playoffs in the three years following the deal, Davis never got his championship either. The Warriors only made the playoffs once in four seasons with Davis on the team.
15 Steve Francis
Heading into the 1999 NBA Draft, the Vancouver Grizzlies held the second overall pick and had their sights set on Maryland point guard Steve Francis, despite the fact that they had already drafted point guard Mike Bibby the year before and Francis had let it be known he preferred to play elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Grizzlies went through with the selection, much to Francis' chagrin. Initially he tried to play nice with the Vancouver media, but after an offensive airport encounter, Francis hastened a trade out of town. In August of 1999, the Grizzlies finally gave in and dealt Francis to the Houston Rockets in an 11 player, three-team trade that also involved the Orlando Magic and at the time was the largest in league history.
While Francis became the franchise in Houston, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1999-00 and becoming a three-time All-Star, the players the Grizzlies received in return never made a significant impact.
14 Dwight Howard
After the Magic's 2009 NBA Finals loss, the team failed to get back to the Finals in 2010 and were knocked out in the opening round of the 2011 postseason much to the dismay of Dwight Howard. After the 2011 lockout ended, Howard asked for a trade citing the Magic's inability to build contender as his reason. With Howard able to become a free agent at season's end, the Magic were planning to deal him at the trade deadline, but he signed an amendment to waive his right to opt out and ensure he would play out the final year of his contract. Howard sat out the end of the 2011-12 season after undergoing surgery for a herniated disk in his back and in the summer once again asked for a trade. In August of 2011, the Magic agreed to ship Howard to the Lakers in a four team deal.
With Howard and free agent signing, Steve Nash, the Lakers were expected to be one of the greatest NBA teams in history. Instead, the team struggled all season, went through three coaching changes, and Howard grew frustrated with Kobe Bryant's unwillingness to share the basketball. The Lakers barely squeaked into the playoffs and were quickly swept in the first round, after which Howard signed with the Houston Rockets.
13 Chris Webber
Drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic in 1993, Chris Webber was shipped to the Warriors in a draft day trade for Penny Hardaway and three future first round draft picks. In Webber's first season he took home Rookie of the Year honors and helped Golden State get back to the playoffs, but often butted heads with coach Don Nelson. Nelson insisted on playing Webber at center in his small lineup, while the 6'10 playmaking big man felt he was better served at power forward. By the end of that first year, it had become clear that the pair's relationship couldn't be repaired and Webber wanted out. He exercised an opt out clause in his contract to become a free agent after just one season and began the 1994-95 season on the sidelines before being shipped to the Washington Bullets in a sign and trade that netted the Warriors Tom Gugliotta and three first round draft picks.
Webber went on to become a star in Washington and then Sacramento while Nelson resigned from his position four months after the trade and the Warriors would fail to reach the postseason for the next 12 years.
12 Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd played parts of seven seasons in New Jersey and led the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003, but by the 2007-08 season the team was clearly on the decline. On the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in his New Jersey tenure, Kidd quietly requested a trade and was dealt back to the Dallas Mavericks team that had drafted him. Kidd went on to win his only NBA Championship with the Mavericks in 2011.
After Kidd's retirement, he returned to the Nets as their head coach for the 2013-14 season. He took them to a second round playoff appearance before leaving once again, this time under less favorable circumstances. Kidd tried to usurp general manager Billy King's power and when he didn't get his way, he sought the Milwaukee Bucks' not yet vacant head coaching job. Kidd ultimately got the job and the Nets received two second round draft picks in return.
11 Tracy McGrady
Drafted straight out of high school, ninth overall, by the Toronto Raptors in 1997, Tracy McGrady didn't see much floor time in his first two NBA seasons, but began to show signs of his potential during in his third season in which he averaged 15.4 points per game mostly coming off the bench. As his rookie contract came to an end, it became apparent that McGrady was growing tired of playing in the shadow of his cousin, Vince Carter, and would prefer to play elsewhere.
McGrady left the Raptors as a free agent and signed with the Orlando Magic to be closer to home and play with fellow free agent signing Grant Hill. McGrady quickly became one of the game's elite players and went on to become a two-time NBA scoring champion.
McGrady never won an NBA championship though and since retiring has expressed regret over leaving Toronto.
10 Carmelo Anthony
After six seasons with the Denver Nuggets, it became apparent heading into the 2010-11 season that Carmelo Anthony had his sights set on free agency in the summer of 2011. To make matters worse, Anthony requested a trade, but also made it known that his team of choice was the New York Knicks making it incredibly difficult for the Nuggets to net a fair return for a player everyone knew was bound for the Big Apple. The Nuggets held off on the deal for as long as possible before finally dealing Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks in a three-team deal with the Timberwolves in February of 2011.
Shortly after the trade was completed, Anthony signed a three year, $65 million extension with the Knicks. Five years later, the trade hasn't exactly worked out the best for the Nuggets, but the Knicks continue to be a disaster.
9 Chris Paul
Chris Paul played six seasons with the New Orleans Hornets, taking home Rookie of the Year honors in 2005-06. The team looked like it was building a strong foundation around their star point guard, but after head coach Byron Scott was fired and the NBA took over control of the team, Paul's frustration with the Hornets' lack of success reached its breaking point. After the 2011 lockout, he requested a trade, with the Knicks being his preferred destination.
With Paul headed towards free agency that summer, the team was inclined to trade him and worked out three team deal to send Paul to the Lakers with Lamar Odom among the pieces going to New Orleans. The trade was killed by the league who claimed it wasn't in the Hornets' best interest. Attempts were made to restructure the deal, but eventually the Lakers gave up, shipping Odom to the Mavericks instead. Paul was ultimately dealt to the Clippers instead and then opted in to the final year of his contract to stay in Los Angeles for at least two years.
8 Earl Monroe
Earl Monroe was drafted second overall by the Baltimore Bullets in 1967 and played four full seasons with the team. He played a key role in the team's heated playoff battles with the rival New York Knicks and helped the Bullets to an NBA Finals appearance in 1971. Following the Bullets championship loss, Monroe requested a trade due to a contract dispute. He considered jumping to the American Basketball Association's Indiana Pacers but changed his mind after visiting the team and learning the Klu Klux Klan had a large presence in the area. Monroe played three more games for the Bullets in 1971-72 before his trade request was granted and the team did the unthinkable by dealing him to the Knicks.
Initially there were doubts about whether Monroe could co-exist in the backcourt with rival and fellow star Walt Clyde Frazier, but the duo ended up forming a dynamic tandem to lead the Knicks to their last NBA Championship in 1973.
7 Vince Carter
In the early years of his career, Vince Carter helped put Toronto on the NBA map, but by the summer of 2004 he had reached his breaking point with the Raptors. The team had fired general manager Glen Grunwald and all of the coaching staff after missing the playoffs and Carter became frustrated that the team didn't seriously consider Julius Erving for the GM vacancy, opting for Rob Babcock instead. Carter requested a trade and in his final partial season in Toronto he was a shell of his former self, putting in minimal effort, refusing to dunk, and averaging a career worst 15.9 points per game in 20 games, diminishing his value in the process.
In December 0f 2004, Carter was dealt to the New Jersey Nets in a lopsided deal that netted the Raptors very little return. He immediately returned to his high flying ways with the Nets, averaging 27.5 points per game and a career best 42.5% shooting from three in 56 games to finish the 2004-05 season.
6 Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley played eight seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers before he wore out his welcome and was traded to the Phoenix Suns. Sir Charles played four seasons in Phoenix, helping them to reach the NBA Finals in his first year with the team in 1992-93, but by the end of the 1995-96 season, it was clear he had once again worn out his welcome. His behavior, which included a belief that athletes shouldn't be viewed as role models, had rubbed people the wrong way and Barkley and the Suns were headed for a divorce. Barkley demanded a trade to a contender and threatened to retire if he didn't get one.
Barkley was dealt to the Rockets where, alongside Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, he was expected to form a dynamic trio capable of getting Barkley his first NBA Championship. However, the Rockets lost in the Western Conference Finals in Barkley's first year with the team, before getting knocked out in the opening round in the two years that followed, and missing the playoffs in Barkley's final NBA season.
5 Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant helped the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-02, but by 2004 the pair's relationship had been strained beyond repair. Having grown sick of Bryant's antics after an 2003 first round exit and a disappointing NBA Finals loss at the hands of the Detroit Pistons in 2004, Shaq demanded a trade. The Lakers obliged and shipped the seven foot behemoth to the Miami Heat in a deal that netted them Lamar Odom and Caron Butler. Shaq would go on to win his fourth and final NBA Championship with the Heat in 2006, while Odom would eventually play a role in two more Lakers titles.
4 Kobe Bryant
Following the O'Neal trade, the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94. In the two years that followed they squeaked into the postseason, but were knocked out in the opening round both times. In the summer of 2007, disgruntled with the team's direction and unwillingness to put other star players around him, Kobe Bryant asked for a trade. A deal never materialized and ultimately the Lakers convinced Bryant to stay put. Midway through the 2007-08 season, the Lakers got Bryant his support by trading for Pau Gasol. The team lost in the 2008 NBA Finals, but followed up with back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
3 Hakeem Olajuwon
In 1986 Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets lost in the NBA Finals, but over the next few years they struggled to have much playoffs success, getting knocked out in the opening round four consecutive times. The team failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in Olajuwon's career in 1991-92 and after the season Olajuwon requested a trade due to the team's inability to build a contender and frustration with his low salary. Team management also upset him by accusing him of faking a hamstring injury and suspending him for refusing to play after being cleared by team doctors. Olajuwon's agent called the differences between the two sides "irreconcilable" and heading into the 1992-93 season a trade seemed like a foregone conclusion.
The Rockets didn't trade Olajuwon and he went on to post the best season of his career in 1992-93, leading the Rockets to their best regular season in team history. Olajuwon was then rewarded with a four year contract extension and the Dream carried the Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.
2 Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain played his first three NBA seasons in Philadelphia with the Warriors, setting numerous league records, and then parts of three more with the franchise after they relocated to San Francisco before financial reasons forced them to trade him back to Philadelphia to play with the 76ers. Wilt the Stilt played three more full seasons in Philadelphia, winning an NBA Championship in 1967. In the summer of 1968, after the 76ers were unwilling to meet his contractual demands, Chamberlain demanded a trade and threatened to jump to the ABA if he didn't get one.
The 76ers dealt Chamberlain to the Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Darrall Imhoff, and All-Star Archie Clark and he went on to win his second title in 1972.
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
"Live in Milwaukee? No, I guess you could say I exist in Milwaukee. I am a soldier hired for service and I will perform that service well. Basketball has given me a good life, but this town has nothing to do with my roots. There's no common ground."
Those were the words Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used in an interview early in his career when asked about living in Milwaukee. Abdul-Jabbar played six seasons with the Bucks and won an NBA Championship, but the New York City native was never able to adjust to life in a small town and in 1974 he demanded a trade to either the Knicks or Lakers. Bucks GM Wayne Embry tried to persuade him to stay, even offering to fire any member of the team's front office that Abdul-Jabbar wanted, but he never relented and was ultimately dealt to the Lakers.
The package the Bucks received in return – Junior Bridgeman, Elmore Smith, Dave Meyers, and Brian Winters – provided them with a group of productive players, but none of them were even close to the level of Abdul-Jabbar, who went on to win five more titles in Los Angeles and retire as the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
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