At around 6 o’clock last night Twitter was besieged with the news that the Cavs and Celtics were engaged in trade talks surrounding Kyrie Irving.
By 7:30 the deal was done.
The Celtics will trade Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st-round pick for Kyrie Irving.
Just when it seemed the NBA offseason was cooling down and teams were set to start the season in a couple months, the clubs that met in the Eastern Conference Finals last year go and do this shit.
It’s a completely wild trade and I’m feeling pretty damn conflicted about it.
On one hand the Celtics have acquired maybe the most gifted offensive point guard in the league in Kyrie Irving and will slot him next to newly-signed Gordon Hayward and big man Al Horford.
On the other hand, the C’s have given up the heart and soul of their team in Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder.
Pair that with the departure of Avery Bradley earlier in the offseason and the Celtics will have to discover a completely new identity next season with only four players returning from last year’s team.
There’s no doubting that head coach Brad Stevens will be able to figure it out, but the Celtics will no longer be the hard-nosed, defensively solid team that they have been over the last couple years.
As a Celtics fan, this trade is both exciting and sad, let’s break it down.
Seeing Isaiah Thomas leave the Celtics this way is tough.
When the Celtics acquired Thomas from the Suns in February 2015 for Marcus Thornton and a first-round pick (lol), the undersized point guard seized control of a mediocre team and willed them to an unlikely playoff appearance.
Over the years he became a darling in Boston, he understood the city’s rabid and passionate fan base, he embraced the history of the franchise.
Thomas penned a Player’s Tribune article about Celtics fans and wanting to be a Celtic for life. There was a natural connection between the fanbase and Thomas, both of which view themselves as underdogs.
"Isaiah embodied what it meant to be a Celtic. He captured fans’ hearts not only with his spirit, but his personality.” – Danny Ainge. pic.twitter.com/Xz85keUYHq
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 23, 2017
IT took the Celtics from a middling Eastern Conference team loaded with future assets to one of the top teams in the league.
But he’ll turn 29 in February, is coming off hip surgery, and is a free agent after the season. Thomas previously said Boston will need to “bring out the Brink’s truck” in free agency next season, and he deserves it, but Danny Ainge clearly had doubts about supplying that truck.
But jeez, did we really need to give this dude anymore motivation? The 5’9″ Thomas has had a chip on his shoulder his entire life and now the team that finally (supposedly) believed in him is bailing on him because of “serious concerns” about his hip.
I’m already having cold sweats thinking about Thomas dropping 45 in the Anonymous Financial Institution Garden next year and glaring at Danny Ainge.
It sucks that IT is gone. And it’s gonna suck more to see him play with LeBron.
Jae Crowder was also one of the most important players on the Celtics. A gritty, no-nonsense wing defender who can lock up virtually anyone on the court, Crowder became a fan favorite in Boston over the years.
Losing Crowder frees up the wing for young studs Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Crowder was a proven commodity, just a fucking solid player whose offensive game had grown over the years to match his defense.
Again, losing Crowder is just plain wack. He’s one of the glue guys that good teams need and I’m sure playing with LeBron will only boost his game further.
"Jae's toughness was contagious… He improved his skills each year, but it's his energy and fight that will be remembered." – Danny Ainge. pic.twitter.com/De607dAmtN
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 23, 2017
Apparently the big hitch in the deal as the Celtics and Cavs discussed this trade over the last month or so was that the Cavs wanted first-round pick Jayson Tatum in the deal. Ainge refused to part with the young player, who looks destined for big things, but once Ainge was ready to introduce the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, the deal picked up.
Ainge has held onto that pick for a long time now, and some were confused about the fact that this was the deal that caused Ainge to finally pull the trigger on letting that pick go.
seriously, ainge wouldn't throw in that pick to get jimmy butler but does as part of a huge kyrie package? what am i missing here?
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) August 22, 2017
Obviously it’s harder to get worked up about losing that pick because it’s just an abstract idea that won’t really matter until next June, but there’s a kind of (albeit hilarious) sentimentality that that fateful Nets/Celtics trade is finally over.
The Celtics no longer have any Nets lottery picks! And while that’s not nearly as upsetting as losing Thomas and Crowder, who are in fact real people, I’m sad to see that pick go. Farewell Nets/Celtics trade, it was truly great while it lasted.
Pour one out for Ante Zizic too.
So Kyrie Irving is really, really good.
He’s one of the most entertaining players in the league, he already has a ring and has shown that he can make THE BIG SHOTS when it matters, and he doesn’t turn 26 until next March.
Danny Ainge clearly had doubts about IT’s health, paying him the Brink’s truck, and despite Thomas’ numbers, in the playoffs he became a defensive liability.
But Irving is no Gary Payton on the defensive side of the floor, and Ainge may come to regret trading Avery Bradley earlier in the summer as the Celtics may struggle on defense after getting rid of Bradley and Crowder in the offseason.
But they should be an absolute powerhouse offensively.
I’m sure Brad Stevens cannot wait to start designing sets for Kyrie, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum.
The Celtics should be one of the more explosive teams in the league and as the NBA becomes more pacy and spacey, the C’s will be able to score with anyone.
They’ve immediately gone from a well-drilled team full of solid role players and one dependable scorer to must-see TV.
Watching Kyrie Irving in a Celtics uniform is going to be really fucking cool. And he’ll have a point to prove after requesting a trade in order to be the star man.
On the financial side, Irving is singed through 2020, so while he’s more expensive in the immediate, after next summer’s max contract for Isaiah Thomas, Irving becomes the cheaper of the two.
Apparently people within the Celtics organization are very sure of the fact that Irving will re-sign with the team after 2020, which means Kyrie will be a Celtic for the foreseeable future and that’s just dope.
The Celtics now have one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA. Some part of me wonders if Ainge made this trade with a slight nod to the future.
LeBron will be 33 in December, and possibly leaving for the West Coast after this season, and the Celtics should be competitive for years to come. This does position the Celtics pretty damn well for life post-LeBron, whenever the hell that will be.
As for the immediate, this just ratcheted up the Celtics/Cavaliers rivalry severely.
Let’s start the damn season.