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The Cleveland Cavaliers have yet to make a serious counter to the Celtics as they seek more compensation in the Isaiah Thomas-Kyrie Irving deal.
Of course they would love to have either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown to sweeten the deal, after being alarmed at the extent of Thomas’s hip injury. That’s not going to happen. The Celtics would likely rescind the deal rather than include three former/future first-round picks along with Thomas and Jae Crowder in exchange for the final two years of Irving’s contract.
The Celtics aren’t happy about the situation. They felt they were totally forthcoming about Thomas’s injury during negotiations. It has been reported all summer, when it appeared a certainty Thomas would play the final year of his contract with the Celtics, that the point guard would spend the summer rehabilitating his torn labrum, without a projected return date.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens had said the team would know more on Thomas after another series of tests in early September. So the Celtics were rather annoyed that the Cavaliers expressed concern about Thomas’s injury after he underwent a physical last Friday.
Thomas’s injury doesn’t appear to be season-ending, according to Celtics sources, unless he has surgery. Thomas opted for rehabilitation and treatment this summer.
The Celtics were fully prepared to move forward with Thomas before Irving’s private trade demand became public.
It was difficult trading Thomas, a highly popular player who had been beyond loyal to the organization, and this entire wait-and-see process seems to be simply delaying the inevitable.
It would be very hard for the teams to rescind the deal now, not with Irving having already mentally checked out of Cleveland weeks ago. It would be more difficult for the Cavaliers to have to welcome back Irving — however briefly — before placing him back on the trade block in an attempt to find an equal return that they received from the Celtics.
Irving is ecstatic about potentially coming to Boston, about the possibility of playing for Stevens and being a more integral part of the offense than he was in Cleveland. Irving was visibly unhappy in his final season with the Cavaliers. He wanted out. And after the trade was reported he began to prepare himself for being a leader in Boston.
Privately, Irving felt he could no longer grow under the tutelage of LeBron James, and he felt stifled by Tyronn Lue’s offense and the influence James had on the schemes. Irving felt like he played with a revolving door of players and lineups, and that most certainly would go to a further extreme should James leave the Cavaliers next summer.
It would be in both teams’ best interest to complete the deal before the Wednesday deadline (teams have a week to consummate a trade, per NBA rules) and just move forward.
After dealing with the disappointment of being traded, Thomas is likely beginning to get excited about playing with James and longtime buddy Kevin Love.
It’s been nearly a week since the deal was reported and the shock is beginning to wear off.
The Celtics are not in a desperate position here. They could choose to play hardball with their chief Eastern Conference rivals and deal with the consequences.
But in no way should they offer anything more than a future first-round pick (their own or one from the Clippers or Grizzlies) or throw in a second-rounder to complete the deal. Cleveland does not want to relinquish Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder that could reap a potential franchise cornerstone.
So the question is, are the Cavaliers serious in their dissatisfaction with the current deal or is this just posturing? Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge needs to take a hardline stance on this issue.
For some reason, you figured acquiring Irving wouldn’t be so clean. It never is when the Celtics try to net a superstar player, as we saw during the Gordon Hayward drama nearly two months ago.
But it seems that the parties in this deal are getting accustomed to the blockbuster swap, and rescinding the trade isn’t a realistic possibility. The Celtics have so many assets to sweeten the deal that they can move forward with an added sacrifice, but they are expediting the rebuild of a conference rival with every draft pick they throw in.
The Celtics should hold firm to original deal because they did give up their floor leader, their spiritual leader, a young 7-footer, and a lottery pick. That’s enough of a sacrifice, and the Celtics have every right to be annoyed.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.