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Cavs grant Kyrie's request by swapping him to Celtics

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-24 07:16

Disgruntled Irving headed to Boston, Thomas tops group going to Cleveland

CLEVELAND - Kyrie Irving was tired of being teammates with LeBron James.

Now he has to figure out how to beat him.

Cleveland's All-Star guard, who asked Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to trade him earlier this summer, was dealt to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night for star guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft pick.

 Cavs grant Kyrie's request by swapping him to Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving looks to drive against Boston Celtics' Isaiah Thomas during a game in Cleveland in 2016. Irving, who asked to leave the Cavs earlier this summer, was traded to the Celtics on Tuesday for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft pick. AP File

Irving, whose late 3-pointer helped Cleveland win the 2016 NBA championship - the city's first pro sports title since 1964 - is joining a Celtics team that lost to the Cavs in last season's conference final.

And as fate will have it, the Cavs will host the Celtics in their season opener on Oct 17.

"Kyrie is one of the best scorers in the NBA," Celtics president Danny Ainge said.

"He has proven that on the biggest stage, the NBA Finals, the last three years. He's been an NBA champion, an Olympic gold medalist and a four-time All-Star. For all he's accomplished, we think his best years are ahead of him."

The blockbuster deal caps a wild summer for the Cavs, who lost their title defense in five games to Golden State in June.

Since then, general manager David Giffin left, the team failed to convince Chauncey Billups to join its front office and James has played with fans' emotions with veiled postings on social media about his future.

Irving's trade demand cast a dark shadow over the entire organization, but have salvaged their offseason with this trade.

In Thomas, they're getting a proven playmaker with a stellar reputation. The 5-foot-9 guard is one of the league's most dynamic backcourt players with an uncanny ability to get to the basket. Irving might be the only point guard who's a better finisher.

The 28-year-old Thomas was taken with the final pick in the second round in 2011, but has steadily scaled his way up to elite status.

His reputation in Boston was cemented when he led the Celtics through the playoffs last season despite the death of his sister on the eve of the postseason.

He also had a front tooth knocked out during the second-round series against Washington and a hip injury eventually forced the team to shut him down early in the East final, won by the Cavaliers in five games.

"Isaiah embodied what it meant to be a Celtic," Ainge said. "He captured fans' hearts not only with his spirit, but his personality.

"And Jae Crowder's toughness was contagious for our team. He improved his skills each year, but it's his energy and fight that will be remembered. We wish them and their families the very best."

Thomas is eligible for free agency next summer and believes he is worthy of a maximum contract. He has been quoted saying: "They better bring out the Brinks truck."

Cavs grant Kyrie's request by swapping him to Celtics

Cleveland also is getting Crowder, a solid perimeter defender, and a first-round pick that Boston got from Brooklyn.

The package could help the Cavs reload if James opts out of his contract next summer and leaves Cleveland for a second time.

The Cavs drafted Irving with the No 1 overall pick in 2011. He struggled in his first few seasons but blossomed in recent years alongside James. But that didn't seem to be enough for the 25-year-old, who has wanted to be the prime player and focal point on his own team.

Minnesota showed some interest in Irving after his trade request became public, but was unwilling to part with young Canadian star Andrew Wiggins as the centerpiece of a deal.

Wiggins is expected to sign a max contract extension in the coming weeks to stay with the Timberwolves.

The Phoenix Suns reportedly were not interested in parting with rookie Josh Jackson in a deal that also would have required Eric Bledsoe and the New York Knicks gave no indication that Kristaps Porzingis was ever on the table in a potential Irving trade.

Then the Celtics swooped in, landing the kind of star Ainge has long coveted. With the possibility of having to break the bank to retain Thomas next summer, Boston finally tapped into the treasure trove of assets that Ainge has assembled to get Irving, who is under contract for two more years.

Irving got his wish to get away from James - but he's not free of him yet.

Associated Press

(China Daily 08/24/2017 page22)

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