From the moment the idea was first floated, the trade that took Kyrie Irving from Cleveland to Boston last summer looked too good to be true for the Celtics and too bleak to consider for the Cavaliers.
The trade, however, went ahead as Irving was traded to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Žižić and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round draft pick. One Cavs player has claimed the deal was a horrible piece of business for the franchise and singled out Celtics’ general manager Danny Ainge as the real culprit.
General manager Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics speaks with the media during Boston Celtics Media Day on September 26, 2016, in Waltham, Massachusetts. Tim Bradbury/Getty Images
"Danny Ainge is a f---ing thief, no explanation needed," the unnamed player was quoted as saying by The Athletic.
Admittedly, the comment came after the Cavs lost a game during the regular season, but it is easy to see where the frustration comes from.
Thomas and Crowder never settled in Ohio and were shipped out at the mid-season deadline, while Žižić is still with the Cavs but has earned the “DNP—Coach’s Decision” tag in 10 of the 13 Cleveland has played in this post-season.
Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, George Hill and Rodney Hood arrived from the Jazz, the Kings and the Lakers respectively in exchange for Thomas and Crowder, but they have failed to make any meaningful impact.
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On Tuesday night, the quarter combined for a pitiful five points on seven shots as the Cavs went 2-0 down against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. As if the picture was not bleak enough for Cleveland, consider that Hill is already 32 years old, has a poor injury record and will command $20 million next season.
Meanwhile, the pick the Cavs got from the Nets—the real prize in the trade—landed them an eight pick, hardly a disastrous outcome but by no means anything to get overly excited about, either.
Irving’s season has hardly been perfect itself, as in March he underwent surgery to remove two screws that were implanted during the same surgery to stabilize the kneecap he fractured in the 2015 NBA Finals.
The screws had become an issue for Irving, whose knee was regularly flaring up, causing him to miss 18 of the Celtics’ first 78 regular season matches.
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While Irving will not be back until next season, he is only 25 and he could have jeopardized his future by playing through the pain barrier as he had done in the early stages of the season.
With the 2016 NBA champion due back next season, the Celtics could become even better, which would make what Cleveland got in return for him look even poorer than it has so far.
That will not escape LeBron James, who can opt out of the final year on his deal with the Cavs this summer to explore his options in the market. The four-time MVP has repeatedly stated his primary interest is competing for titles and Cleveland, bar another major trade this summer, no longer seems the right place to be for him.
The Lakers, the Rockets and the Sixers have all been linked with the three-time NBA champion and all have an attractive case to put forward. Should Irving’s trade lead to LeBron’s departure, Ainge might no longer be the main villain in this saga.
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