And you thought Danny Ainge had lost his gambling touch.
After countless near-trades and moments of asset hoarding, the Boston Celtics general manager reminded everyone he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger at any time and on anyone.
The move to trade face-of-the-franchise Isaiah Thomas, along with valuable wing Jae Crowder and, of course, the crown jewel Brooklyn Nets 2018 draft pick, for Kyrie Irving is Ainge’s biggest swing for the fences yet in the Celtics’ current rebuild.
It’s aggressive. It may even be unnecessary. But there’s no doubting it’s a bold, high-variance play that Ainge hopes will result in raising Boston’s ceiling even further.
Because as it stood before the trade, things were going just swimmingly for last season’s Eastern Conference top seed. It truly seemed like Ainge finally had what he wanted – two timelines, one for the present and one for the future, to build on simultaneously.
The only problem, however, was a decision on Thomas loomed next offseason that may have locked the Celtics into a third, alternate timeline where the present and future don’t fully overlap.
It may seem overly cautious to not want to pay top dollar for a player coming off one of the most efficient scoring seasons in history, resulting in a top-five finish in MVP voting and an All-NBA Second Team selection – let alone having helped rebuild the franchise and capturing the city’s heart – but Thomas, a 5’9″ guard who will be 29 next summer and is currently recovering from a bad hip, comes with undeniable risk.
Yet, the biggest gamble Ainge is taking and what is likely his number one reason for making the move, is Irving not having reached his full potential.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 23, 2017
At 25, arguably the league’s best one-on-one player is just entering his prime with a history of being a clutch-time performer capable of coming through in the biggest moments on the biggest stage.
Put him in Brad Stevens’ motion-based offence and watch him reach another level, as so many players under the Celtics coach have done.
This is also a bet on Irving as a person. You wanted to get out of LeBron James’ shadow and be a leader? Here you go.
For the Cavaliers, the trade is a home run. Newly-appointed general manager Koby Altman has managed to keep the team strong right now as they vie for another title with James, while also restocking the cupboard should LeBron bolt.
With as little leverage as Cleveland had, Ainge certainly overpaid, but in the larger context the Celtics had the margin to do just that for the chance to solidify their future.
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The NBA announced its full 1,230-game schedule for the upcoming season, complete with tweaks designed to reduce wear-and-tear on players through the grinding 26-week campaign.
The 2017-18 season will be the first season in NBA history in which no team plays four games in five days. The number of back-to-back games has been reduced to 14.4 per team — down from 16.3 last year.
The issue of keeping teams fresh during a regular-season lasting more than six months gained urgency as coaches opted to rest stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry occasionally to be sure they’d be ready for deep playoff runs.
The absence of marquee players was felt not only by fans who paid for tickets but also by national broadcasters. ABC and ESPN recently paid $24 billion for the right to air some of the league’s marquee games.
To make it possible, the league shortened the pre-season, and added about a week to the regular season.
The season that tips off on October 17 with the reigning champion Golden State Warriors taking on the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers, bested by the Warriors in last season’s finals, taking on the Boston Celtics in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The NBA had already revealed its five Christmas Day contests, which include a Warriors-Cavaliers rematch. The two teams, who have clashed in the last three championship series, will meet again on Martin Luther King Jr Day — January 15.
Three-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans last season, makes his first return to Sacramento in week two.
There could be fireworks on November 15, when Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Los Angeles Lakers and rookie Lonzo Ball — the second overall pick in June’s draft.
Ball’s father LaVar Ball and Embiid traded barbs on social media during the off-season.
Paul George, traded by the Indiana Pacers to Oklahoma City, returns with the Thunder and NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook to take on the Pacers on December 13.
Chris Paul will be back in Los Angeles to take on his old team the Clippers as a Houston Rocket on January 15.
Jimmy Butler, dealt by the Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves in June, returns to Chicago with his new team on February 9.
Gordon Hayward, who signed with the Celtics on March 28, returns to take on his old team the Utah Jazz on March 28.
In international games already announced, the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets will play in Mexico City on December 9 and the 76ers and Celtics will meet in London on January 11.
While Derrick Rose’s decline from MVP has now seen him agree to a minimum deal, the Cleveland Cavaliers offer their most recent addition a chance at rebuilding his reputation.
The point guard is reportedly set to sign a veterans minimum salary of $2.1 million for one year during an uneasy time for Cleveland as the drama of Kyrie Irving’s recently reported trade request hangs above their heads.
Rose appears in line to potentially benefit from the disconnect, with the 28-year-old agreeing to the deal “after spending the day [with LeBron James], discussing how the team will return to the Finals without Kyrie Irving”, according to Cleveland.com, who also state that “James is eager to see [Irving] off”.
Despite Irving requesting a trade and providing the Cavaliers a list of four teams he would prefer to call his new home – San Antonio, Miami, New York and Minnesota – he’s still under contract until the summer of 2019 at the earliest, meaning Cleveland could keep him in the hopes of resolving any chemistry issues.
However, it’s sounding more and more like the Cavaliers are seriously planning on moving Irving, with Rose seemingly sold on the idea of being an impactful playmaker alongside James.
Rose had been in communication with James throughout the process leading up to signing with Cleveland, according to ESPN, and James welcomed his new team-mate by tweeting on Monday: “Let’s Rock G!!”.
James also took to Twitter yesterday to shoot down rumours surround him and Irving, including the aforementioned claim that he’s “eager” for Cleveland to trade the All-Star point guard.
James tweeted: “#NotFacts people! Boooo!!! Get another source” while quoting two SLAM Magazine articles referencing his unhappiness with Irving.
For Rose, the $2.1m contract pales in comparison to the five-year, $150m deal he was reportedly hoping for midway through this past season, according to ESPN back in January.
After taking a 90% salary cut, Derrick Rose is currently the 55th highest-paid point guard signed for next season. pic.twitter.com/tg8JpVLo8R— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 25, 2017
Though he had his best statistical season since 2011-12 last year with the Knicks, averaging 18.0 points, 4.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 47.1 per cent shooting, the Cavaliers offer an opportunity to play with better talent and in more meaningful games.
Rose doesn’t solve Cleveland’s defensive issues or offer much more than Irving does on that end of the floor, but his ability to drive and finish at the rim, while also being a capable passer to open spot-up shooters, should be an asset.
An adjustment period may be necessary, but the low-cost flyer the Cavaliers are taking on Rose could end up helping both sides.