Just as the dust had started to settle on an NBA summer that won’t soon be forgotten, the Celtics kicked it right back up. Danny Ainge blindsided Celtic Nation by trading away All-Star point guard and locker room leader Isaiah Thomas, the gritty Jae Crowder, the Celtics (Brooklyn’s) 2018 pick, and a 2020 second round pick from Miami; to the Cleveland Cavaliers for four time All-Star Kyrie Irving.
The trade almost sank, which would have left both teams feeling like Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan in “Open Water,” but the 2020 second round pick was added to keep the deal afloat. The pick is considered the least valuable asset Boston could have parted ways with, acknowledging the rumors that Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum’s names were thrown around before Cleveland settled for the pick and finalized the blockbuster deal.
Kyrie Irving will be entering his seventh season in the league, and his first with a new look Boston Celtics team that has many questions to answer entering the new season.
First, how does Irving fit in with the Celtics new look? As excited as fans are for Irving, the Celtics only contributing returners are Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Terry Rozier. Irving and the rest of the new pieces will have to integrate into the system Brad Stevens has created, one that has seen the Celtics improve in win total in each of his four seasons. Irving, who will likely run the same type of role we saw from Thomas, might be poised to do it even better. “Uncle Drew” is known for his handles and ability to score since he entered the league in 2011. The one thing that he has been criticized for is his defense, but Ainge believes that can change under Head Coach Brad Stevens.
“I think he’s a fantastic passer, and I think that defensively he’s got to improve. I think he will in Brad’s system,” Ainge said.
The Celtics, thanks to Stevens, undoubtedly approach the defensive side of the ball better. Irving won’t be the first point guard that is weak on defense that Stevens will work with, as we saw what he managed to do with Thomas. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, who play strong perimeter defense, will be looked at to help take some pressure off Irving. With his offensive ability, if he can improve just a bit defensively, the Celtics will have a top 8 player in the world leading the franchise this season.
With Irving’s arrival we had to say goodbye to Thomas, who gave his heart to the city of Boston. Thomas exemplified the Celtic way: he played in a playoff game after the loss of his sister, lost a tooth and he willed the Celtics to victory and became known as the “King of the Fourth.” When he was here, the “little guy” gave everything for us, the fans and people of Boston. Do I love the Irving trade? Yes. Will Irving end up better for the Celtics in the long run? Probably, but let’s not forget what Thomas meant to the Celtics these past three years when he returns in a Cavs jersey.
The revamped Celtics will start off at Quicken Loans arena on Oct. 17, where Irving and Thomas will face their former teams for what should be an emotional season opener.