Storyline: Kyrie Irving Trade

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He has pointed to overall happiness and the desire to grow on and off the floor as the driving force behind his trade request. And he did that again Tuesday morning, keeping any other reasons private, while hoping to move forward with his new team, one that appears to be the Cavs’ biggest East threat. “I kind of want to put that to rest in terms of everyone figuring out or trying to continue to dive into a narrative they have no idea about and probably will never, ever be divulged because it’s not important,” Irving said. “This was literally just a decision I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward. I don’t want to pinpoint anything, I will never pinpoint anything because that’s not what real grown-ups do. They continue to move on with their life and continue to progress and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

“I’m excited to be back. I’m excited to get the season started. It’s a little different for all of us. But my six years being here they were something that helped me evolve as a man and coming in here every single night and strapping up my shoelaces for the Cleveland Cavaliers was something awesome,” Irving said prior to the Celtics’ shootaround Tuesday morning. “Now I start a new journey, a new step in my career. Ready to get it started, but I’m always truly grateful for them welcoming me with open arms and making sure that me and my family were always supported. Ultimately my love will never change that I have for Cleveland.”

Asked about those inflammatory comments, calling Boston a “real, live sports city,” Irving tried to explain. “I mean, of course it was going to turn into a comparison,” Irving said. “I was talking about driving into Boston. When I’m actually on the highway driving into Boston, the newness and the new environment of going into that city is something different for me. It kind of worked out that I was talking to Marc Spears and it turned into a comparison of me comparing Boston to Cleveland and it wasn’t anything like that.”

“(People say) it’s LeBron and Kyrie hate each other,” Shumpert said. “No, it’s two dudes that need the ball. LeBron needs the ball, Kyrie needs the ball, Kevin (Love) needs the ball. Swish (J.R. Smith) can’t shoot unless he has the ball. Kyle Korver can’t shoot unless he has the ball.” Shumpert, who is a friend to Irving, said the two still talk. He said “it could be awkward for a little bit” between James, Irving, and Love (there has been no mention of any tension between Irving and Love in media reports), but “it ain’t gonna last.”

Draymond Green has heard the criticism lobbed in Kyrie Irving’s direction. He’s heard how Irving was selfish for wanting to leave the side of LeBron James, how he was foolish for wanting to prove he could strike out on his own and do his own thing. Green, though, took Irving’s trade request, which led to him being dealt from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics, in a far different vein than most: His level of respect for the all-star point guard rose.

As for Irving telling reporters during his introductory press conference in Boston that he hadn’t spoken to LeBron James since reports that he wanted out of Cleveland first surfaced? Shumpert, as has been the team line for weeks, thinks there’s nothing to that. “There’s no hard feelings,” he said. “And I’m sure Ky at some point is going to talk to everybody, the same way he talked to me. Ky’s a regular dude. He’s going to compete and he knows we’re going to be out looking for him when we play Boston. It’s all fine.”

Guys go down next to LeBron James year after year, yet very little has stopped the party since 2007 — and not at all since 2010. And while a whole lot of people got their knickers twisted when Cleveland temporarily braked the deal, the end result was as good as anyone in Northern Ohio could expect, given the complete lack of leverage the Cavaliers had once Irving’s trade demands and unhappiness became public. (No, Koby Altman’s future as a GM isn’t ruined; everyone around the league knows the straight jacket every Cleveland exec is in, with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert driving the bus. Hey, he paid for the bus; he can drive it if he wants. Altman did a hell of a job getting what he got.)

Anyway, James can afford to be sanguine about his future. Wherever he plays, championship opportunities follow. The Cavs don’t have that luxury. Which is why they were never going to blow up the proposed deal from the Celtics. That deal held the key to their future — their post-LeBron future. There was no chance they were going to walk away from that. The unprotected 2018 pick, whether it’s the first pick next June or the fifth, gives Cleveland a chance at a pre-20-year-old talent that it never would have a shot at through the rest of this decade, and probably well into the next.

Danny Ainge had to pull the trigger. The gulf between the Cavs and Celtics in the conference finals last year was enormous. Boston couldn’t match Cleveland’s firepower, whether in the halfcourt or in transition. The NBA is all about scoring, and if you have enough elite two-way players like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on your team, you have a chance to be able to play enough defense to win big. The Celtics had very good defenders in Crowder and Amir Johnson, but you couldn’t start two non-scoring threats against the Cavs. Kyrie Irving is the best — the best — player in the league with the basketball. Better than Westbrook, who’s electric and fierce, and John Wall, who’s a blur. There’s no one who can stay in front of Irving; he goes from zero to scalding in about four seconds.

Koby Altman may be the latest person to call himself Cleveland Cavaliers general manager—the fourth in the past 12 years since Dan Gilbert bought the team—but multiple sources have told me that the Cavs owner was the one calling the shots on the trade that sent Irving to Boston, and he’s the one dealing with the fallout. Gilbert’s dysfunctional ways are old news. Gilbert himself joked during Altman’s introductory presser that his GMs have four-year presidential terms. “A state of organizational chaos is Gilbert’s M.O.,” one executive told me. “Gilbert thinks he’s the protagonist in the story of the Cavaliers, when, in reality, he’s the antagonist.”

Gilbert’s fingerprints were all over the drama that’s unfolded over the past week. Thomas’s health is what held up the deal, but according to multiple league sources with knowledge of Cleveland’s thought process, the unprotected Nets pick and Crowder were the pieces that Cleveland valued the most—those were the assets that got the deal done, not Thomas. The perception of the trade was that the Cavaliers and Celtics swapped franchise point guards, but for the Cleveland front office (and its owner), Thomas was the icing, not the cake.

So, the Cavaliers and Celtics are discussing how to complete their trade, which is held up by Thomas’ physical. Will the Cavs request another pick? If they don’t get it, will they void the deal entirely? Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin on NBA TV: “Sometimes in these situations, you think of it as mutually assured destruction. There’s not a lot of upside to deal coming undone for either side. And because of that, I think it will end up going through as is.”
4 months ago via ESPN

The Cleveland-Boston standoff over Isaiah Thomas’s health also signaled the rest of the league: The bidding for Kyrie Irving is still open. It looks unlikely the Cleveland Cavaliers will pry a better haul than the Boston Celtics’ standing offer of Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected pick in the 2018 draft — even with Thomas’ status so uncertain due to a lingering hip injury. That may embolden Boston to draw the line at one or two more second-round picks after Cleveland finally asked them Tuesday night for extra compensation.

Thomas told ESPN that doctors said his torn labrum will not affect how long he plays. However, Thomas did indicate he may not be ready for the start of the season. “There’s never been an indication that I wouldn’t be back, and there’s never been an indication that this is something messing up my career,” he said. “Maybe I am not going to be back as soon this season as everyone wants me to be, but I’m going to be back, and I’m going to be the same player again. No doctor has told me anything different than that.”

Given how far along the two sides are and what the Cavs are getting in return for disgruntled point guard Kyrie Irving — Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first round pick — former Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin believes protege Koby Altman should proceed as planned, saying he would make the same deal if still running the front office. “I think I would have,” Griffin told NBA TV late Tuesday night. “I really think Koby Altman made a tremendous trade here, given the circumstances. When you’re trying to win a championship, there is no in between. You’re all the way with me, or you’re all the way against me. And I think this was a situation where Kyrie made it clear he had a goal set that might not have jived with what Cleveland’s was.

The Cavaliers declined to comment on a new ESPN report that the team would seek further compensation for Kyrie Irving because of the severity of Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury. Two Cavs sources said Saturday night only that the team was “still in the review process” in determining what do about the week’s blockbuster trade with Boston, in which Cleveland agreed to ship Irving to the Celtics for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s No. 1 pick.

The Cavaliers are indeed pausing to consider a “concern that we have” regarding Isaiah Thomas’ right hip, a source told cleveland.com, while Kyrie Irving is undergoing his physical today in Boston. Two sources with knowledge of the Cavs’ thinking said the team is conducting a “very deep and thorough review process” on Thomas, whom Cleveland acquired Tuesday in a blockbuster trade along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn No. 1 pick for Irving.
4 months ago via ESPN

In the aftermath of issues resulting from Isaiah Thomas’ physical examination on Friday, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics are planning a telephone call for Saturday to discuss the status of the teams’ blockbuster trade, league sources told ESPN. The proposed deal sending Cleveland’s four-time All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round pick via Brooklyn has been thrust into uncertainty with medical questions surrounding Thomas’ injured hip, league sources told ESPN.
4 months ago via ESPN

It is possible that Cleveland could request further compensation from Boston before it’ll approve the trade, league sources said. Cleveland has until Thursday to make a final decision on approving the trade, sources said. Cleveland can veto the deal based on a failed physical, sending players back to their respective teams. Thomas took the exam in Cleveland on Friday before flying back home to the West Coast, league sources said. “It’s very sensitive situation,” one source involved in the process told ESPN.

Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said today the team’s blockbuster trade for Cavaliers’ guard Kyrie Irving was needed after the 53-win team fell short against Cleveland in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. “We got bounced pretty hard last year in the playoffs, and then those guys got bounced pretty hard after that,” Grousbeck, referencing the Cavs and Irving losing to the Warriors in the finals, told reporters this morning at the topping off ceremony for the Celtics’ new training facility, the Auerbach Center at New Balance World Headquarters in Brighton. “So we didn’t feel we were at the top, we didn’t feel we were where we wanted to be, so that’s what you do when you run a team, you do what you have to do to try to get better.”

You can add Jayson Tatum to the list of folks who were shocked by the news that four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving was coming to Boston. The Celtics engineered a trade with Cleveland Tuesday night that sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the rights to Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick, to the Cavs for Irving. “I was just as surprised as everyone else,” Tatum told reporters on Wednesday. “I saw my name come up. I didn’t know if I was going to get traded.”

“On behalf of the entire franchise, I want to thank Kyrie Irving for the six impressive years he spent in Cleveland wearing the Cavaliers uniform,” said Cavaliers Chairman Dan Gilbert. “From the moment we won the 2011 NBA lottery that put us in position to draft Kyrie to the ‘The Shot’ that sealed our first NBA championship and all of the electrifying play that made him a joy to watch, ‘excitement’ was always in the air when it came to Kyrie Irving. We wish him and his family well as he moves on to the next phase of his NBA career.”
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December 15, 2017 | 10:05 pm EST Update