After Cleveland and Boston completed their blockbuster trade Tuesday night – swapping All-Star point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas, among other assets – reaction came fast and furious.
The general consensus? The Cavs did quite well given that Irving forced their hand with his July trade demand. In fact, many fans and analysts feel the Cavs won this trade hands-down.
Whether they’ll feel that way in 2018, however, remains to be seen.
“I don’t think the Celtics improved themselves for this coming year against the Cavs,” Celtics play-by-play voice Sean Grande said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Assuming Isaiah’s healthy – and I assume that he is – I think this is a great deal for 2017-18 for the Cavs.”
But what about 2018-19? That is the question.
“Who on earth knows what’s going to happen with LeBron when this year is over?” Grande said. “I think the Celtics, as constituted, were not going to beat Cleveland. And while I don’t know if they can beat them now with this team, I think the higher end for the Celtics is a lot more possible. Kyrie is still on that upswing at 25 years old. I think the Celtics have a greater upside than they did two days ago by changing over the team, but I really think if it’s not about 2017-18, you got to look at the Celtics now for the next four or five or six years in the Eastern Conference in what could be a post-LeBron situation in Cleveland. The Celtics are positioned very, very well.”
Indeed, they are – assuming that Irving becomes what Thomas became in Boston: team leader, franchise cornerstone, and fan favorite.
One must wonder if Irving is capable of that. This is a guy who, after three consecutive trips to the Finals and one championship, decided he didn’t want to play with LeBron James anymore. Doesn’t that concern Grande and Celtics fans?
“Absolutely, it does,” Grande said. “I think it’s one of those things you’re going to have to explain to your grandkids one day: Why didn’t you want to play with LeBron? But again, hey, LeBron wanted to leave Cleveland in 2010. He wanted to do his own thing in a different place, and I think it’s one of those this things that, at 25, we all have a different perspective on Kyrie and where he is in his career and his life than he does. It’s his life and his career and he wants to have his own individual stamp on it. You got to respect a guy who wants to put that pressure on himself. On the one hand, it’s, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ On the other hand, it’s, ‘Hey, you got it.’
“So are there concerns about Kyrie? Of course there are,” Grande continued. “But I keep saying 25 years old over and over again. There were concerns about Isaiah two-and-a-half years ago. Paul Pierce – now one of the most respected players (of the era) not only talent-wise, but as a human being – at 25 did not have a great reputation around the league. So there’s so much of Kyrie Irving’s career and his story in the NBA in front of him that this is what he wanted and he got it. It’s going to be fascinating to watch.”