Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
After All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas underwent a physical examination in Cleveland on Friday, uncertainty over the fitness of his injured hip has Cavaliers officials evaluating the results and considering possible ramifications to the blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics earlier this week, league sources said.
One source involved in the process said on Friday night, “It’s a very sensitive situation.”
Thomas left town Friday after taking the exam.
The Cavaliers still are evaluating the medical information, and no final decision has been made, league sources said.
Well, Woj delivered quite a wojbomb last night.
Buried in the second to last paragraph is this tidbit:
Thomas has been rehabilitating a hip injury that ended his season in the Eastern Conference finals. Boston doctors had decided that Thomas’ hip did not require surgery and prescribed a summer regimen of rehabilitation and rest. In the rehab process, Thomas still hasn’t started running, league sources said.
It’s entirely possible this is the reason why the Brooklyn pick had no protections on it.
So that’s the most comprehensive information out there. A few tweets from Boston media add a bit of additional insight:
So let’s talk about what just happened.
First of all, there’s the question of what information Cleveland sought about IT’s health before the trade, and what information Boston provided.
Then there’s the question of what Cleveland knew before the physical vs. what they found at the physical.
Finally, there’s the question of what happens next.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Boston was fairly up front with what they knew about IT’s hip. It doesn’t pay to lie about that kind of stuff when the other team is going to perform a physical and see everything that you also saw. Also, Boston definitely told Cleveland that IT would not be ready to start the season because Ainge said as much on the record minutes after the deal was finalized. No way he’d tell the press something Cleveland didn’t already know.
Cleveland was not, in fact, getting a starting point guard in game 1; they were getting a guy who would likely be their starting PG somewhere down the line this season. That radically changes the complexion of this deal. Cleveland was, in essence, agreeing to rent IT for part of a season before deciding whether or not to pay him.
That makes the Nets pick, as has been reported elsewhere, the real centerpiece of this deal.
So why is Cleveland kicking about IT’s hip?
Well, if it’s because Boston failed to disclose something material, or did not discover an aspect of the injury that Cleveland found, there’s a very recent precedent we can look at to get an idea of what happens next.
For reasons that baffle me, Green went through high school, college, a brief stint with the Sonithunders, and several games with the Celtics without having a life-threatening aneurysm discovered.
Boston’s physicians discovered it during a preseason evaluation (he passed his post-trade physical–the Celtics didn’t pick up on it then either).
Jeff Green had to miss an entire season, and at the time it was an open question whether he would ever be able to play basketball again (heck, the surgery alone was terrifying).
What did OKC furnish as additional compensation?
A 2013 second round pick.
So if it turns out that Boston either missed something or withheld info, in order for the trade to go through, I can see a scenario where Boston gives Cleveland their first round pick in 2018 along with the Nets pick.
If Boston was upfront with Clevleand, and there was nothing in the physical that they didn’t already know about, then you’re looking at two very different ways of dealing with people and two very different ways of negotiating.
People have–and deservedly so–called Danny Ainge cold-blooded for trading IT after the year he had.
But Ainge was up front with IT all along. You can see it in IT’s comments from the end of the season, where he said he’d like to stay in Boston, but he knew it wasn’t a given.
During their early careers, when they’re young kids in their 20s, I’m sure Ainge’s refusal to commit is irritating. But time passes, and if you mature, you realize that it’s better to work for a guy like Ainge, who isn’t going to sugar-coat things, than it is to have a guy who’s trying to get through life by manipulating other people.
Isaiah Thomas’s dad gets that. Isaiah doesn’t yet, but this situation should prove instructive.
Because–and granted, I’ve got my green-tinted glasses on for this–this smells like a shakedown.
I could see Cleveland feeling either buyer’s remorse (because they’re not getting a starting PG up front, and will be effectively replacing Kyrie with Rose over the first part of the season) or getting greedy, and smelling an opportunity to extort another player or pick from Boston.
And this is what I mean by manipulation.
Ainge didn’t mess around with IT. He agreed to terms, made the call himself, took–I’m guessing–a well-earned amount of abuse from IT, and got on with things.
Nobody’s going to tell you that was easy to do, but at least Ainge did it surgically. He made a decision, made the phone call, and accepted the consequences.
What’s going on over in Cleveland?
They’re using Isaiah Thomas’s health to squeeze Boston, with absolutely no regard–or perhaps with a cynical view toward signing him at a discount–to the effect this has on Thomas.
Rather than completing the transaction and letting IT and Crowder begin coming to terms with a major change in their lives, Cleveland is holding both of these guys hostage in a very public fashion, in what appears, at least from a certain angle, to be outright extortion.
They are manipulating IT and Crowder; they’re using them, and with what appears to be considerably less consideration for their feelings and situation than Ainge displayed.
So what happens next?
It’s possible the deal gets undone, everything reverts to status quo ante, and Boston and Cleveland are left in extremely awkward situations.
Some have said that leaves Boston with a mess, which it kind of does, but it leaves Cleveland with an even bigger mess. They can either trade Irving for a lot less than they were getting from Boston, or they can start the season without him.
On the Boston side, there’s talk about burning bridges, etc., and this is another area where Boston’s organization is a study in contrasts with Cleveland.
Ainge and ownership make the call on trades. Brad Stevens doesn’t have a say in forming them, although he’s asked for input about the players involved.
None of the players on the team have any involvement in trades.
And Ainge for dang sure doesn’t let fan sentiment or the press affect the decisions he makes.
So if IT and Crowder come back to Boston, who, out of everyone connected to the Celtics from the fans all the way up to ownership, is going to be up front with them, and tell them to be mad at him and no one else? Ainge.
In time, IT and Crowder will come around on the fans, their teammates, the coaching staff, and if they remain cool toward Ainge, well, that’s understandable. But eventually, they may come to realize that Ainge never misled them. He’s told them, he’s told the public, he’s told anyone that would listen that the team wasn’t where he wanted it to be, and that no one on the team was untouchable.
Look, I’m not here to tell you Ainge is perfect, that he’s never made a mistake, that IT and Crowder have no reason to be upset about what happened. However, Ainge is very very good at his job, and this is why.
And don’t come away from this thinking that I love this deal. I don’t. I don’t like it at all. Kyrie has to show me a lot more than he has before I’m sold on this.
But Ainge handled this whole situation with a measure of forthrightness that is commendable.
Since the subject of loyalty was raised by, among others, Ray Allen, that’s worth taking a look at too.
Ainge will tell you that his responsibility is to do what is best for the Celtics, and that the only goal for the Celtics is a championship. That tells you where his loyalties lie.
That means that personnel decisions take a back seat to what he perceives as the team’s best interests.
And when you’re playing basketball in the NBA, and that’s almost your whole life, and your career depends on being able to work closely with fourteen other guys, and trust them, yeah, Ainge looks disloyal.
But basketball careers aren’t forever, and there’s a whole lot of life before and after and around basketball, and in that arena, Ainge and the ownership group have displayed a pretty meaningful amount of loyalty to Celtics alums. Thomas and Crowder could probably ask anything from Ainge–and get it–other than staying on the team. When you’re in the middle of your career, as these guys are, that’s hard to appreciate. And for some guys like Ray Allen, it’s pretty hard to appreciate afterward too. It’s hard to appreciate that an organization can be loyal to you as a person while being ‘disloyal’ to you as a player–especially if you only see yourself as a basketball player.
That’s why, if this deal gets undone, I think the Celtics can mend fences–even if things don’t get 100% back the way they were–both Thomas and Crowder have had a lot worse things happen to them this year than getting traded, and with time and maturity, they should realize that.
If the deal goes through? Well, the Celtics owe IT and Crowder a lot more than they can pay back with a tribute video, especially if it turns out that IT effectively shortened his career by giving the Celtics everything he had last season, and you can be sure everyone in the organization realizes that. I have no idea what Isaiah wants to do after he retires, but if it involves basketball, the Celtics will almost certainly find a place for him.
The rest of the links
MassLive: Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury might void Boston Celtics’ trade with Cleveland Cavaliers (report) | Boston Celtics rumors: Free agent Andrew Bogut an option | Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens recruited rookie Semi Ojeleye in high school
Boston Globe: Report: Isaiah Thomas’s hip may jeopardize trade