A Celtics Fan Thoughts on the Isaiah Thomas/ Kyrie Irving Trade
I love Isaiah Thomas. I love his game, I love his heart, and I love his drive to be better. I love the way he did everything in his power to make his team better, be it through practice or through his help recruiting Al Horford as a free agent. I love the way he took over in the fourth quarter of so many games he was crowned “The King in the Fourth” according to t-shirts being sold outside of TD Garden on the days of Celtics as well as Bruins games. I love the way he fought through injuries, I love the fact that a mere two days after the tragic death of his sister, he was leading his team in the playoffs, and I love the fact that as he went through the process of dealing with not only his grief but the grieving of his family he was flying back and forth across the country – his family in Seattle but playing games in Boston, Chicago and Washington DC, all while leading the Celtics back from deficits as they made their way to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers.
That being said, I’m a huge fan of this trade; Kyrie Irving is a transcendental talent the likes of which Boston hasn’t seen in a long time. There has been speculation that Kyrie wasn’t happy because he wanted to be “The Man” in Cleveland, but was never able to get that chance because very early in his career LeBron James made his return to Cleveland and instantly Kyrie was in his shadow. Of course, that might not have been as big an issue at first, because many times a superstar has been able to join a team that already has a franchise player who might feel threatened. Think of how Kevin Garnett was regarded when he joined the Celtics in 2008 on a team that already had perennial all-star Paul Pierce. The issue was that LeBron was not the team-first player that KG was. After Kyrie’s heroics against the Golden State Warriors led to the first championship in Cleveland Cavaliers history, LeBron did a television interview riddled with the words “me” and “I”, but never “Kyrie”. After three straight Finals appearances and a lone championship, Kyrie finally had enough of operating in LeBron’s shadow.
I can’t say I blame him. LeBron has never been the type to share credit with anyone in victory, but in defeat, he is quite generous. LeBron needs all the attention on him at all times. If you disagree with this, I would remind you that this self-proclaimed “King James” once needed to be carried off the court because he had cramps in the waning moments of an NBA Finals game, and let us never forget his infamous “decision” before announcing he would be “taking my talents to South Beach”. He took all the credit for the Cavaliers’ championship, refusing to acknowledge Kyrie’s contributions. Don’t get me wrong, LeBron is an incredible player, but nobody wins on their own, and nobody knows this better than LeBron, who bolted Cleveland for Miami, then came back to Cleveland after orchestrating the shakeup that molded the roster into his vision, which included the jettisoning of former number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins, but ensuring that Kyrie was his sidekick.
As far as the trade went, it was something I actually posed to my brothers in a text message shortly after Kyrie requested his trade. I asked “Isiah, Crowder, the Brooklyn pick, and another guy to make salary work for Kyrie. You make that trade or no?” This was, of course, which ended up happening and the ‘other guy’ ended up being Ante Zizic. My first reaction was one of elation. Not only did the Celtics get better, but the Cavaliers got worse.
I know that Isaiah had a better season than Kyrie, a MVP-caliber season in fact. The fact remains, however, that Kyrie has shows that he can maintain a high level of play with more consistency than Isaiah. Kyrie is three years younger than Isaiah (25-28) as well as not coming off of a hip injury. I know Isaiah has said repeatedly that he will be fine and back to the player that he was this past season, but no one really knows for sure. Kyrie is also not five foot nine. Smaller players who drive to the hoop all the time and take a whole lot of punishment do not have very long careers, and Isaiah also is looking for a max deal north of $100 million. There’s too much uncertainty with Isaiah, no matter how much I love him and his game, I just don’t think I would want to give him that much money.
As for the rest of the assets the Celtics gave up in the trade, I’m okay with them, but I do think the Celtics overpaid just a little to get Kyrie. Jae Crowder was the primary defender on LeBron both in the regular season as well as the playoffs. Plus, he has a very agreeable contract and more than capable on the offensive end of the floor as well. I do not think that the Brooklyn pick is going to be anything franchise-altering, certainly not in the top five. Brooklyn has gotten better this year, and they have absolutely zero incentive to tank their season, even if they wanted to do so. I mean, why would they want to make an Eastern Conference rival better, whether it was Boston or Cleveland? And to be honest, I don’t know enough about Zizic to have an opinion about him other than he’s a good rebounder and that’s something that the Celtics need.
I am going to miss watching Isaiah fly around the court in Celtics green, but I’m still going to be rooting for him. I’ll be cheering for him, applauding every time he hits a big shot or flashes his winning smile. I’ll be in his corner, hoping he has a great season and be successful.
As long as it’s not against the Celtics.