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.
The answer certainly matters to some members of the Cavaliers organization, namely LeBron James and head coach Ty Lue. One league source with an understanding of Cleveland’s situation told me that as news spread throughout the organization that Thomas could miss time deep into the upcoming season, James and Lue cooled on the deal. According to the same source, both the Cavs’ franchise player and their head coach were apparently told by upper management that Thomas and Crowder were being brought in to help the team compete with the Warriors, now.
Woj wrote earlier this week that the Cavaliers could potentially say Boston “undersold” them on how injured Thomas was. It’s possible Cleveland came to this realization after having Thomas in for a physical. That’s despite the fact both organizations shared medical information prior to the trade agreement (as Woj reported, and multiple sources confirmed to me). If this is true, it’s indicative of the unique position the Cavaliers find themselves in. LeBron’s commitment to the team, or lack thereof, is shaping Cleveland’s personnel decisions. The Cavs have to keep him relatively happy, but can’t sell the farm in order to do so.
The Ringer — Our long Cavaliers-Celtics trade nightmare is over
Very few here in Boston expected the Celtics to relinquish anything more than a spare 2nd-rounder to the perplexing and, as Rich Jensen so accurately depicted in his post last night, piglet-like Cavs management. Still, in the minutes between Woj dropping his tweet announcing the completion of the trade, and his announcement of the added compensation, I was apprehensive. So many sources had said so many things regarding what the Cavs could snag from the Cs, that I had already imagined the wide range of possibilities. So excuse me as a Celtics fan for both exhaling deeply and poking fun at my Cleveland buddies (I went to school in Ohio so I have a handful) when all that came of this interminable trade drama was a 2020 second rounder:
Dave (@ above) knows where I live, and he knows my fiance, so I will likely need to move and not tell him in advance of our first kid, but it was totally worth ribbing him over this because, really, a week to figure this out, Cavs??
Luckily, Boston-bred Kevin O’Connor came onto the scene with sources a’blazin’ last night. I’m not sure who his guy is on the inside of the Cavs organization, but he must be as good as my student Mike (all names changed) in my first year of teaching 7th grade in West Philly. Needles to say, I was the Dan Gilbert of the classroom back then– things were an absolute mess. Over the course of the year I had the following things thrown at me: a wooden block, a bottle of water, ketchup, orange soda, grape soda and a desk. After a while I stopped turning my back. Luckily, I had Mike, who would come up to my room to eat lunch with me like once or twice a week. He was my source — “It was Andrew who squeezed the ketchup packet on your back,” “Jade threw the orange soda because people told her it would be funny,” “Mr. Mark, are you actually going to come back tomorrow?”
Anyways, those are the types of sources KOC clearly has. There is a lot of good stuff in his piece from last night, so we’ll take a look at two parts of it that caught my eye this morning.
One: The Cavs are such a mess, and a lot of it stems from the elephant in the room– Lebron James’
imminent possible departure. He’s leaving, they probably figured, so this is a great trade with an eye toward the future. The chance to hit the reset button and build around a 2018 draft pick next year, a cheap-o contract and solid two-way player in Jae Crowder for this year and the re-build, an interesting, young big on a cost-controlled deal, and an all-star coming off a career-best campaign.
But then Lebron found out what the Cavs already knew: Isaiah Thomas may not be back for a while, and he likely voiced some concern about the deal. So, did the Cavs go back to the Celtics to almost feign disgust and displeasure over the severity of Isaiah Thomas’ injury? That was their only play, right? A half-hearted attempt to appease Lebron and Ty Lue, who regardless of where they end up in 18-19, are here on the East’s best team for this season.
The Cavs are trying to walk a fine line here, but it ends up rankling the Celtics and disgracing Isaiah Thomas. Look, it’s possible O’Connor’s sources aren’t Mike-level reliable, and we may hear that the Celtics really somehow misled Cavs’ brass about Thomas, but that’s hard to believe when you consider this next point by KOC:
Altman, who was hired as David Griffin’s replacement, deserves immense credit for landing a massive trade package for Irving. Crowder is the two-way player Cleveland has desperately lacked, and he’s locked up on a cheap contract with three years and only $22 million left. Even if the Nets pick isn’t in the top five, it could land the Cavs a quality prospect in the top 10 or be used as a trade asset. Zizic is a young, hard-nosed big who could be a long-term starter.
Thomas truly is the bonus of the deal, and its biggest question mark. The Little Guy told Wojnarowski he’s “not damaged” and will return “the same player again.” If his hip injury is manageable, he’ll be the cake’s icing, sprinkles, and the topper. Cleveland should be happy with the return.
When looked at this way, ISAIAH THOMAS WAS THE THROW-IN and yet the Cavs still hemmed and hawed about extracting additional value from the Cs because Thomas was more injured than originally thought. This was not Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas. It was Kyrie Irving for the best start-over package (Nets pick, Crowder, Zizic) and an expiring contract that just happens to come with one of the best point guards in the league.
Which brings us, finally to Isaiah Thomas:
This might come as a surprise to anyone who watched Thomas score 28.9 points per game on a ridiculously efficient 1.13 points per possession last season, earning him second-team All-NBA honors. But the Celtics wouldn’t have sweetened the pot with the Nets pick and Crowder if Thomas were 100 percent healthy, according to a source with knowledge of Boston’s thinking, nor could Cleveland have demanded such a package. Thomas’s injury was priced into the deal, in the sense that he didn’t have full value.
Isaiah Thomas was un-freaking-believable last season. He had already endeared himself to Celtics fans, and outperformed his contract and expectations over a season and a half with the team, but last season was other-worldly and it was such a treat to watch.
What did Thomas get for playing through physical and emotional pain deep into May? Throw-in status in one of the summer’s biggest trades.
Think about this for a second. Thomas, the 60th pick in the 2011 draft, defied expectations and became one of the league’s most potent scorers through three seasons in Sacramento. In his third year, he put up 20 and 6 a game. Where did that get him? How about three teams in two years. A combination of bad roster construction, some rocky relationships and frustration with his role got him passed around like a hot potato until he landed in Boston.
Thomas completely transformed himself under Brad Stevens to the point that he was all-NBA third team, 5th in the MVP voting and one of the most popular athletes in a sports-crazed town. He had made it.
Where does that get him? If I had to guess, Thomas is going to end up in the same hot-potato situation he was in at the beginning of his career: three teams in three seasons. If he really was the “throw-in” in this deal, and if Lebron really is leaving after this season, then the real icing on the cake for the Cavs was having Thomas’ expiring contract. They can clear James and Thomas off their books, have cap flexibility with Crowder’s number, a rookie contract on Zizic, a rookie contract on their Nets pick, and the ability to start over.
That’s cool. But what a cruel, cruel twist of fate for IT. He’s done EVERYTHING right. He’s defied expectations, he’d found a true NBA home. And where does it get him? Back to likely being an NBA traveler again. Hopefully his next stop, on a new contract will be a long-time home.
And finally, just a reminder, Kyrie’s excited
Ok, it’s time to look forward. Kyrie Irving is officially a Celtic, and he’s pumped. Words have already been spilled on what the fit could look like (that’s what happens when a trade takes a week to actually become official). Time to move on. Is it October yet?
The rest of the links: