Rip City: Hamilton says Cavs team to beat even before Kyrie injury

Former NBA standout Richard Hamilton, now an analyst for CBS Sports, says the Cavaliers were the best team in the East even before Kyrie Irving of Boston was lost for the rest of the season.

Boston’s chances of getting out of the Eastern Conference and reaching the NBA Finals took a monstrous hit Thursday when it was announced Kyrie Irving will be sidelined for the rest of the season.

Irving, a five-time All-Star and a former Cavalier, will undergo a second knee surgery, and the expected recovery time is four to five months.

Richard “Rip” Hamilton, the former standout guard for the Detroit Pistons, now an NBA analyst for CBS Sports, said even if Irving was healthy, it wouldn’t matter.

The Cavaliers were the best team in the Eastern Conference before Irving went down.

“When they made the trade for Kyrie Irving, they said to themselves ‘alright, you know what, this is going to be a four- or five-year process,'” Hamilton said while appearing on CBS Sports HQ. “‘We’ve got a lot of young guys on this team — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown.’

“They didn’t look at it as trying to win now. They felt their best time win a championship was probably going to be three or four years down the road.”

Which only serves to emphasize how Hamilton feels about the present.

“Even if Kyrie was on [the Celtics], I still think the Cleveland Cavaliers [were] the better team, especially when you look at how depleted [the Celtics] are,” he said. “Marcus Smart, they don’t know if he’s gonna be back for the second round of the playoffs then you’ve got Gordon Hayward who’s been out all season long.

“So when you look at this roster, I think in order for them to great and in order to beat a Cleveland or the Toronto Raptors, they need to be healthy.”