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.
It’s now September, which means the off-season is almost over and Celtics training camp will soon begin. Except, with the Gordon Hayward free agent (in)decision, the huge roster overhaul, and what may have been the longest-lasting trade in league history, we really haven’t had an off-season.
But today we finally get to see and hear from Boston’s two new all-stars.
Hayward signed weeks ago, but the Celts never had a formal introductory press conference for him. Having him appear with Irving makes perfect sense.
Yesterday, Kyrie said hello to Celtics fans and goodbye to Cleveland.
With his trade to the Boston Celtics official, Kyrie Irving posted a four-minute video to social media on Thursday thanking the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans for the first six years of his NBA career spent with the organization.
“When you get to that point and you understand that the best intentions for you, and ultimately to be in your truth, and find out what you really want to do in your life and how you want to accomplish it — that moment comes, and you take full advantage of it,” said Irving, who will be joining the team that lost 4-1 to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals.
Without mentioning him by name, Irving addressed reports that his preference to leave Cleveland was fueled by LeBron James — both the possibility that James could leave as a free agent in 2018 and the perception that if James does stay, Irving would have to continue to sublimate his game to fit with the four-time MVP.
“There are no other ulterior reasons other than being happy and to be somewhere you feel like it’s an environment that’s conducive for you maximizing your potential,” said Irving, who is drawn to Boston by coach Brad Stevens as much as anything, league sources told ESPN.
Writers across the NBA are now making their case as to whether the Celtics got better or this summer or, after losing the likes of Thomas, Bradley and Olynyk, slightly worse. I think it could be some of each.
With so many new faces, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Celtics take a while to jell. They won’t be like the roster after KG and Ray arrived to form the new Big 3. That group won their first eight games and never looked back. But they were special.
This current squad will need to time to get on the same page, but once they do, they should right there with the Cavs, fighting for the top seed in the East. Before the mega-trade, I was figuring them to post 55 wins (a somewhat arbitrary number based on the trend of improvement each year under Brad Stevens). With Kyrie replacing Isaiah, I’m sticking with 55. It just feels right.
The real expectations, however, will come in the postseason. The Celts set the bar high by winning two series last spring. It took unexpected performances like IT’s epic 53 points and Olynyk’s he-put-it-all-together Game 7, but it did happen.
Now, with Ainge landing the big free agent and also finally cashing in his trade chips, it’s mandatory that the Cs go further than last season. At minimum, extending the LeBrons to six or seven games (and yes, possibly winning the Eastern finals) is a fair expectation now.
Opening night – in Cleveland – is a little more than six weeks away.
Related: CBS Sports – Celtics’ wild summer, capped by Kyrie Irving trade, leaves their future wide open | NBA.com – All-Stars On The Move: Boston Needs Gordon Hayward And Kyrie Irving’s Shot Creation | Herald – Bulpett: Must dig deep to analyze dramatic Celts-Cavs deal | ESPN Boston – Celtics’ focus shifts to a solving a revamped roster puzzle | Sporting News – NBA trades: How Kyrie Irving can fill Isaiah Thomas’ shoes, fit within Celtics’ system | Yahoo – Irving doesn’t mention LeBron in his goodbye to Cleveland
On Page 2: Stranger things
This aspect of the big trade is fascinating and, frankly, scary. Dealing a star player to the team you’re trying to beat just never happens. Watching Isaiah Thomas (and Jae Crowder) play against the Celtics will be strange, for sure.
The closest comparison in Celtics history is probably when Boston sent Paul Westphal to Phoenix for Charlie Scott before the 1975-76 season. The two teams weren’t rivals, but coincidentally ended up facing each other in that year’s NBA Finals. Westphal had a phenomenal series, especially in the epic Game 5 triple-overtime, where he nearly willed the Suns to a comeback win after trailing by more than 20 points.
A Suns win would’ve given them a 3-2 lead headed back to Phoenix for a closeout game. It didn’t happen, but it was simply terrifying to watch someone you had cheered the year before come so close to denying the Celtics a banner. And you’d better get ready: It’s a scenario that could be repeated this season with The Little Guy. He’s already got the incentive.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, in a podcast breaking down the trade, noted that the trade had to feel like a familiar disrespect to Thomas.
“The one thing you know with Isaiah is he’s going to use all of this as fuel,” Wojnarowski said. “This is the story of his career, right? ‘I have one of the great single seasons in Celtics’ guard history anyway, and I still get traded, and they still move me.'”
Wojnarowski added that he got a text from Thomas on Wednesday night, shortly after the deal was finalized.
“I won’t quote him,” Wojnarowski said, “but he’s a pretty motivated guy this morning, last night, today. Certainly with him, you know you get that. There’s a hunger to him that allows him to do what he’s done at 5-foot-nothing in the NBA.”
Footnote: “It’s a business.”
And, finally: The new Gino?
Back in the day, Red Auerbach used to light a victory cigar. For the past decade, we’ve had Gino Time. And if the Celtics decide it’s time for a new tradition…
The Rest of the Links:
Celtics.com – Celtics Crossovers: Who Could Play Where?