No News is Good News for Celtics at Trade Deadline
There was no need for Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge to spend the day vigorously working the phones Thursday.
His team, which entered Thursday night as the owner of the best record in the Eastern Conference and the third-best record in the NBA, is one of the fortunate few well-stocked with a blend of star power, young talent, team chemistry and draft assets. There was no panic move necessary before the NBA trade deadline came and went.
Ainge did his due diligence and poked around, but ultimately made the right decision and stood pat. The most rumored Celtic to be on the move was guard Marcus Smart, but Boston proved how much it values its gritty, defensive-minded player, even if he at times has a tendency to fight hotel room picture frames.
Best of all for the C’s was the fact that they got to watch, with their collective jaws dropped like many, as the rival Cleveland Cavaliers blew up their roster in a deadline day overhaul for the ages.
The Cavs sent guard Isaiah Thomas -- a former All-Star with the Celtics -- to the Los Angeles Lakers along with forward Channing Frye and one of their two first-round picks, in exchange for point guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr.
While that 32-ounce porterhouse of a trade stuck in the guts of basketball fans everywhere, the Cavs weren’t done. They then completed a three-team deal with the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings. The Cavs sent guard Derrick Rose and forward Jae Crowder -- also a former Celtic -- to the Jazz for guard Rodney Hood. The Cavs will receive guard George Hill from the Kings in exchange for guard Iman Shumpert.
Finally, in another shocker, Cleveland dealt 36-year-old Dwyane Wade back to Miami for a heavily protected second-round pick. Wade is one of LeBron James’ closest friends, which made his exit from Cleveland astonishing. But Wade played 13 seasons in Miami and won three NBA titles there -- two of them with James.
At 31-22 and currently the No. 3 seed in the East, the Cavs have been on a downward spiral. They are just 7-13 since Christmas and only have a four-game cushion from being completely out of the playoff picture.
They simply needed to address their consistently horrendous defense, their tendency to put forth a lackluster effort, and an aging roster that was starving to find camaraderie.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics played a major role in putting Cleveland in this position. It started last summer when Boston acquired star guard Kyrie Irving from the Cavs after he made it very public that he no longer wanted to be second fiddle to James in The Land. In return, the Cavs took Thomas, Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first-round draft pick.
Irving has fit in seamlessly in Boston, garnering serious MVP consideration. But Thomas, who missed the first 36 games of the season while recovering from a hip injury, never clicked with James and was routinely blamed for the team’s defensive issues even though he only played in 15 games with Cleveland.
Crowder was also a major disappointment after the Cavs anticipated him being a starter and a defensive standout.
Boston has been looking more and more like a championship contender with every passing week, despite the absence of injured star forward Gordon Hayward. But the Cavs have done nothing but fade out of championship conversations, all while dealing with the very real possibility that a disgruntled James will bolt for better pastures this summer in free agency.
Thursday’s trades were out of necessity and desperation for Cleveland. It had no other choice, and Boston is heavily to blame. It was a last ditch effort to get younger, get more athletic, get back in the championship discussions, and hope that it all helps get James back in a Cavs uniform next season and beyond.
On the surface, the added pieces look like they could help Cleveland. Hood is 25 years old and averaging 16.8 points per game. Clarkson is a 25-year-old versatile guard averaging 14.5 points per game. Nance is a 6-foot-9, 25-year-old jump-through-the-roof type player who will help on defense and on the glass. Hill is a steady veteran point guard who has played on many winning teams.
Cleveland has two months to put it all together before the playoffs, which is easier said than done.
Once upon a time, the Celtics were the team that needed the fireworks. Sometimes it’s nice not to be that team.
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone