Latest posts by David Morrow (see all)
- Morrow: Five guys primed for breakout year - September 19, 2017
- Morrow: Cavs, Celtics stuck in fascinating standoff - August 27, 2017
- Morrow: What to expect from new-look Jazz - July 26, 2017
Is Isaiah Thomas a Celtic or Cavalier? It’s not often that such a standard question is tricky to answer.
Thomas, in case you somehow haven’t heard, was traded to the Cavs along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets’ first-round draft pick, in exchange for Kyrie Irving. The top two teams in a conference swapping All-Star point guards is something that just doesn’t happen; the situation was plenty weird already, and got even weirder after Thomas underwent his physical.
It seems that Thomas’ hip injury is more serious than Cleveland anticipated. Now, the Cavs want another asset from the Celtics to sweeten the deal, but Boston doesn’t want to give up anything else.
What we’re left with is a bizarre but fascinating situation. Neither the Celtics nor the Cavs have any real leverage. Here’s how I imagine the conversation between Celtics GM Danny Ainge and Cavs GM Koby Altman went:
ALTMAN: Hey, this hip injury is more serious than we thought.
AINGE: OK, well just accept the deal anyway. We gave you Crowder and the Nets pick. The Nets are not very good, we got the first overall pick from them last year.
ALTMAN: I mean, yeah, but now they have some guys who could maybe be good like D’Angelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe.
AINGE: Those guys might be bad.
ALTMAN: They could be good, though.
AINGE: I guess. Still, though, are you really going to get more for a point guard who, practically publicly, demanded a trade? Now it looks like he doesn’t want to play in a winning situation, which lowers his value a ton. Even if the Nets are, like, semi-decent and you end up with like the sixth pick, that plus Crowder, on an amazing contract, is great value for you. Plus, maybe Isaiah does make a full recovery.
ALTMAN: Sure, but we know LeBron might leave so we need a lot of assets for the future. The Nets pick could be great, but can you just throw in like Tatum or Jaylen Brown or that Lakers/Kings pick?
So, yeah. I’m not sure which side budges on this one because both have valid arguments. Boston doesn’t want to give up too much in exchange for Irving, and another big asset would be too much. On the other hand, Cleveland needs to contend this year while simultaneously preparing for a bleak future in which LeBron James and Thomas both leave in free agency.
The Cavs might have a bit more leverage, because if the trade doesn’t go through, they’ll be able to find another suitor for Irving. Maybe Phoenix, Denver or Minnesota?
Boston, on the other hand, would walk away from a failed trade with an extremely disgruntled Thomas in the locker room. In Thomas, you’ve got the biggest sports hero in the city of Boston, non-Tom-Brady category.
In trying to trade him, the Celtics have essentially shown the epitome of “there’s no loyalty in sports.” I doubt that Thomas would be remotely amenable to playing hard for the Celtics after this transgression. Crowder would probably feel similarly. Ainge has to be feeling a ton of pressure to get rid of both players.
There has to be a middle ground here. Maybe Boston throws in its own 2018 first-rounder, with a top-20 or -25 protection? We’ll see how things turn out.