The dream Kyrie Irving had was to play for his hometown Knicks. Reality, however, turned out to be better.
Irving accomplished his offseason goal: he beat LeBron James out of Cleveland and landed on a championship contender with a rich history.
And now the most intriguing rivalry in the NBA belongs in the Eastern Conference thanks to Kyrie, who was granted his wish on Tuesday by being traded to the Boston Celtics. The deal makes a lot of sense for both teams; the Celtics add a 25-year-old point guard while retaining enough assets to still make a run next summer at New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.
LeBron, Kyrie Irving driving the conversation this offseason
The return for Cleveland Cavaliers was about as well as you can do considering that Irving didn’t want to play with LeBron and according to sources was considering not reporting to training camp if the Cavs failed to make a deal. Cleveland acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first round pick.
The deal allows the Cavs to remain the league’s second best team behind the Golden State Warriors while receiving a draft pick that could be a top five selection in June.
Thomas, who becomes a free agent July 1, finished fifth in the MVP voting and was the emotional leader of a Celtics team that captured the top seed in the East last season. The question, however, was whether Boston could win a championship with an undersized point guard as its best player. Thomas also suffered a hip injury during last year’s playoffs and missed the final three games of the conference finals.
Thomas had a monster season, averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists. But he’s a free agent next summer and now the Celtics no longer have to worry about paying Thomas, 28, a max contract. Still, Thomas should thrive under James while Crowder, who owns one of the league’s best contracts, is a strong addition.
Ex-Cavs GM Griffin: Irving will be gone, it took ‘courage’ to ask
Whether these moves are enough to keep LeBron is Cleveland beyond this season remains to be seen. For months, the consensus around the league is that LeBron will relocate in Los Angeles with the Lakers next July. Until then, James should be pleased with the performance of Cleveland management and, in particular, Koby Altman, who was recently promoted to general manager.
Celtics President Danny Ainge has a history of pulling off blockbusters trades and this is one of his biggest. After signing free agent Gordon Hayward in July, Ainge adds an All-Star point guard who is entering the prime years of his career. And Kyrie has a championship pedigree having hit the biggest shot in Cavs history two years ago in Game 7 against Golden State.
Kyrie, however, requested a trade last month having grown tired of playing in LeBron’s shadow. Instead, he’ll be playing under the 17 championship banners that hang in Boston’s TD Garden.
When reports surfaced that Irving wanted to be traded, he was said to have a list of four preferred destinations; the Knicks, Spurs, Timberwolves and Heat. Two weeks ago, former Cavs GM David Griffin revealed that Boston was on the list as well, saying that Irving expressed a desire to play under Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Cavaliers and Celtics swap Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas in deal
Irving, the native of West Orange, N.J., is owed $ 60 million over the next three seasons but can become a free agent on July 1, 2019. He is said to be elated over the trade and, according to ESPN, Irving was willing to waive his trade kicker in order for the deal to be completed.
The Knicks were never really in the running because the club had no interest in parting with Kristaps Porzingis, who is entering his third season. Without Porzingis, a deal with the Knicks didn’t appeal to Cleveland, who never seriously considered trading for Carmelo Anthony. Plus, Anthony remains committed to being traded to the Houston Rockets.
The Knicks are in for a long rebuild, assuming LeBron doesn’t sign with the Knicks next July which seems unlikely. No, the Eastern Conference belongs to the Cavs and Celtics, who will open the NBA season on Oct. 17.
That will be a wild night in Cleveland for the point guard who dumped LeBron.
Send a Letter to the Editor