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BLOCKBUSTER: Reports say Celts deal Thomas, Crowder, and draft pick for Cavs' Irving

By MIKE SHALIN
Special to the Union Leader

August 22. 2017 8:54PM
Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving dribbles against Boston guard Isaiah Thomas during the first quarter of a November 2016 game at Quicken Loans Arena. (Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

BOSTON — It all blew up in a hurry.

By late afternoon on Tuesday, word was out that the Celtics were talking to the Cleveland Cavaliers about Kyrie Irving. Talking.

By early evening, the deal was reported, multiple sources saying Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and that coveted Brooklyn Nets pick for 2018.

Irving didn’t want to play another year with LeBron James and asked for a trade — and the Cavs must really have wanted to make it happen if they would deal the guard to their No. 1 Eastern Conference rival.

Now, Irving gets his wish and joins a revamped Celtics roster that has also added Gordon Hayward through free agency and Jayson Tatum through the draft.

Revamped? There are only four Celtics — Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier— left from last year’s team.

Obviously, Danny Ainge saw a chance to go for it, at least from the Eastern Conference perspective. No one in the East is going to beat the Golden State Warriors and the rest of the West is packed while the East continues to weaken.

Ainge, who couldn’t have liked the thought of giving the popular Thomas that “Brinks truck” full of money, now doesn’t have to worry about that — and he got himself a bona fide superstar who is NOT 5-9 or smaller.

The trade makes sense from the Cleveland angle as well.

The Cavs have been looking for a trade partner and were able to come up with a package that could help them even if LeBron leaves after next season. They traded one starter for two and also may have gotten a future big man (with some ability) and potentially the first pick in what should be a talented first round of the draft. As far as this year? Still a tossup in the eyes of many.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who was keeping a minute-by-minute account of the deal as the teams talked to the league office, tweeted:

“Irving thrilled w/ joining Celtics and they’ll have great chance to eventually re-sign him. Boston made deal with strong belief he’ll stay.”

Irving, three years younger than Thomas, has three years and $60 million remaining on his contract and can opt out of the final season. He averaged a career-high 25.2 points per game, adding 5.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game last season.

Thomas, assuming his injured hip keeps progressing — and Celtics coach Brad Stevens sounded anything but sure recently when asked about Thomas being ready right from the start — now teams with James and Kevin Love. Toss in monster rebounder Tristan Thompson and all those role players, for at least one season, and the Cavs don’t figure to be hurting.

Both James, who is reportedly heading west after another opt-out, and Thomas can be free after next season so we have to see what happens there.

In Boston, Stevens, already established as a strong NBA coach, now has a different team to coach. There will be more pressure on Brown, more pressure on Smart.

In an interesting side note on the deal, Irving was the first player taken in the 2011 draft — Thomas was the 60th and last.

Remember, too, the teams open the regular season against each other Oct. 17 in Cleveland. They will also meet Feb. 11 in Boston, the night the Celtics retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.


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