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Without hesitation, the Cleveland Cavaliers will veto the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics if they can’t come to an agreement on what to do about Isaiah Thomas.
This is the deal the Cavs wanted — but not the only deal that’s been offered for Irving. A month remains before camp, and the Cavs can indeed trade Irving elsewhere before then.
But what would the Celtics do if they had to keep Thomas?
If you’re the Celtics, it seems like the best you can do here is play “hardball.” But if you lose, and the Cavs back out, then what?
Now, there are a lot of different layers to this, a lot of opinions being thrown against the wall. Some just don’t stick.
As of today, the deal that sent Irving to the Celtics for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s first-round draft pick is on hold.
Thomas injured his hip against the Cavs in the playoffs in May. He bypassed surgery. Clearly, the injury is worse than the Cavs initially believed — or as they might tell you, worse than they were initially led to believe by the Celtics.
Rumor has it the Celtics are willing to throw in a second-round pick to “sweeten the deal.” Rumor has it the Cavs want another first, if not another player.
Cavs general manager Koby Altman especially values Crowder and that Brooklyn pick. He is willing to absorb Thomas, who may or may not need surgery and could be months away from a return. Altman and the Cavs want this deal — but they are also going as “all in” as possible on the season.
If Thomas can’t do that until, say, January or February, then the Cavs have no choice but to reconsider. Searching for another Irving deal is not their preference. But again, it’s not nearly as bad as what the Celtics might go through if the deal is called off.
One source said “his agent has gone off the grid” in reference to Thomas, describing the point guard’s dismay with the Celtics. Later, the source added that Thomas’ camp “is very unhappy with Boston’s front office.”
So the last thing the Celtics want is to bring back an injured and angry Thomas, who’s in the final year of his contract.
Instead, they would much rather have Irving — a dynamic All-Star who waived a trade kicker for about $6 million to play with his new team.
WORKS BOTH WAYS
Now, none of this is to imply that vetoing the trade would be a best-case scenario for the Cavs.
The Celtics are well aware of Altman’s affinity for Crowder and Thomas, as well as the promise of Zizic, and especially, that pick. While the Cavs hold some real leverage here, it’s not all of the leverage. The Cavs made the trade because they liked all of the elements, not just Thomas. They want it to work out, and the Celtics know it.
The Celtics also know it will be hard for the Cavs to receive another lottery pick in return for a deal centered on Irving. The Cavs tried before, to no avail.
So let’s not pretend Boston is weak, or has no say in what happens next.
But the Cavs are willing to work with the Celtics, and refuse to believe they are in anything other than the driver’s seat.
“They still have Derrick Rose to play point guard,” one opposing GM told Amico Hoops of the Cavs. “Who will the Celtics have without Irving? Isaiah Thomas? Marcus Smart? Good luck with that.”
There has been a lot of tough talk from columnists and fans, and perhaps a couple of team officials and agents through the press. But the real truth is, both sides want this deal to work and are seeking a solution.
If one isn’t found, the Cavs will move on. That will be bad news for them, but much worse for the Celtics.