The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics finalized a deal Aug. 31 completing one of the most blockbuster trades in National Basketball Association history.
The trade sent All-NBA point guard and all-star Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for rising star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, a 2018 first-round draft pick from the Brooklyn Nets, and a 2020 second round pick.
It’s still hard to digest how a player of Kyrie Irving’s caliber requested a trade from the Cavs after appearing in three straight NBA finals.
Many fans believe he asked for it because, in addition to Irving, the Cavs have probably the best player in the NBA since Michael Jordan—Lebron James. Rumors spread in the sports world when Irving requested the trade, one of which came from ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith: “Kyrie was tired of playing under the shadow of Lebron James.”
Smith has a flair for the dramatic in sports commentary, and it comes off hard to believe that Irving would request a trade over one teammate.
Looking deeper it is more likely that Irving wanted to move on and extend his career through new opportunities. But many fans couldn’t take that as a legit reason. Some just did what fans have done in the past—burn their old jerseys of players who left the teams they love. A trade that was supposed to look good for Irving and the Celtics took a big turn and favored the Cavaliers.
The Cavs are one of the most hated teams in the NBA and it was weird to feel good for them once they completed this trade because of who they got in return: point guard Isaiah Thomas, one of the top stories to come out in the playoff this past season. Just a couple days after his sister died in a car accident in early April, Thomas pulled off one of the most memorable playoff performances in NBA history.
The Celtics didn’t end up winning the game, but Thomas scored 33 points with his family in the crowd, and the team rallied around him to eventually go all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, Thomas’s season was cut short due to a labral tear, and the Cavs ended up defeating the Celtics in the seven-game series. Even though the Boston Celtics’ season was over, the fans had reason to hope that the best was yet to come. In the end for both Irving and Thomas, their futures were bright, and both of their teams were destined to meet in next year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
Then it happened. The Cavaliers and Celtics announced on Aug. 22 they were in talks to trade Irving for Thomas.
For Thomas it came at a big shock that a team in a city that rallied around him when he was at his lowest, and believed in his ability to help bring the Celts back to glory, was willing to let him go so easily.
Many players in the league came together in support of Thomas, believing he shouldn’t have been treated so cavalierly in his final days with the club. And fans soon followed suit turning the Celtics into the villains of league, and the Cavs into the new favorite to defeat them in the coming year.
It’ll be interesting to see how Irving handles being the center of a team pushing for its first finals appearance since 2008.
As for Thomas, he fits in with the Cavaliers smoothly. With a team headed by Lebron James, and a scoring machine like Isaiah Thomas, the league better be ready to see what Cleveland has in store once again.
From a personal point of view, Cleveland got the better end of the trade, because Thomas has a WAR (wins above replacement) 20 points higher than Irving’s. Not to say Irving is not a good player, but the presence of Thomas on the court has a greater impact.
It’ll be fun to watch Cleveland and Boston go at it this year, as it looks to be one of the most electric rivalries in the NBA this season.