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Monday, 28 August 2017 18:13

Why Danny Ainge Will Call Cleveland's Bluff and Kyrie Irving Trade Will Go Through

Written by  Mike Petraglia

CLNS Media's Mike Petraglia weighs in on the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade situation in the wake of Cleveland's attempted renegotiation

BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving remains with the Boston Celtics. And it should stay that way.


After a hellacious 48 hours over the weekend, the NBA world is still buzzing over what the Celtics and Cavaliers will do to finalize the five-asset trade that had the two Eastern Conference power trading point guards.


So much has transpired since the Tuesday trade call was completed with the NBA.


An overjoyed Irving told Danny Ainge that he was "very excited" to be joining the Celtics. New teammates like Marcus Smart welcomed him to Boston.


Then Thomas traveled to Cleveland to have his physical. This is when - reportedly - everything changed. The Cavaliers claim they found much worse damage in Thomas' hip, with a labrum tear that could force him to miss the start of the season, or possibly much more.


The story broke Friday night that the Cavaliers were having serious reservations about the trade and that it had become a "very sensitive" issue within the organization.


The two teams then participated in a call on Saturday to re-visit what each side knew about Thomas' injury. The Cavaliers - presumably - informed the Celtics during the call that they were failing Thomas on the physical because of a hip injury the player opted to not correct with surgery following the Eastern Conference finals in May.


I had an NBA source tell me Saturday that the Celtics' front office has been concerned all summer by the fact that Thomas could not jog or otherwise physically test the hip and that it wasn't responding quickly to his non-surgical choice.


Then Sunday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Cavaliers would "inquire" about either Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum or another first-round pick as compensation to account for the uncertainty of Thomas' availability.

Here's why Danny Ainge won't blink. The Cavaliers knew about Thomas' condition and Ainge told them during the initial trade conversation that Thomas likely wouldn't be available for the start of the season. He even admitted this on the conference call with the media on Tuesday night.

As much as Ainge wants Kyrie Irving, Ainge is in the position to call Cleveland's bluff. No team can offer Brooklyn's unprotected first-round pick of 2018, in addition to Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic.

Cleveland can void the trade if they choose but this assumes that they had equal or better deals in the holster waiting to be executed. Cleveland has already shown its hand in what they value for Irving. Now, other teams could play this against them. If the Celtics have to take back Crowder, Zizic and the Brooklyn pick, then so be it.


Then Cleveland.com reported Monday that Cleveland has yet to make an official request for any further compensation as they "are still in the review process" following Thomas' physical of last week.

Thomas, a free agent-to-be in 2018 looking for a max deal, was never the key to the trade for the Cavaliers. Jae Crowder's incredibly-friendly contract (see chart below) and the Brooklyn pick were. At just 20, Ante Zizic could be a nasty big man in the making. These three pieces are not insignificant for a team that is looking to compete again next year while building for the future.


There are other ways this deal could be re-worked with Crowder and Zizic. But both teams are too far down the road with both Irving and Thomas to realistically bring them back. Irving because of his damaged relationship with LeBron James and Thomas because of his damaged right hip.


One thing is for sure - as I can attest from social media Sunday night - Celtics fans are fed up with Cleveland the demand for another pick. Just the suggestion that Ainge might consider Brown but no way Tatum was enough to incite a year's worth of Twitter rage in my general direction.


After doing some thinking, soul-searching and reading NSFW comments to the original tweet, you come to the conclusion this is because these same Celtics fans believe Ainge gave up too much already in Crowder and Zizic and the Brooklyn '18 pick. Adding another first-round commodity would be lunacy.

Clearly, Celtics fans envision a future that includes Brown, Tatum, Hayward, Horford and Irving. That's a lot to build around. They also feel the Cavs made their bed with LeBron and made the choice to trade their point guard. Why should the Celtics be held hostage over the health of a player the Cavaliers knew full well wasn't going to be ready for the start of the season?

Maybe the Celtics take back Zizic and throw in a second-round pick. Maybe the Celtics include a future first-round pick but demand another player back in return. There are ways this deal can be reworked if the two sides choose.


But the thought of Ainge just throwing in another first-round talent like Brown or Tatum or a first-round pick to just make up for Thomas' failed physical and finish the deal, that isn't happening.


God help us - and Twitter - if it does.