Blakely: Celtics pull off another steal in getting Kyrie Irving from Cavs


BOSTON -- Amazing.

Getting Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers without giving up prized rookie Jayson Tatum -- the one player that besides Isaiah Thomas or Jaylen Brown who seems poised for a breakout season -- is as impressive a deal as the heist trade Boston pulled off with Brooklyn in 2013.

In addition to Thomas, the Celtics also sent Cleveland Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 Brooklyn first-round pick that’s unprotected.

The gap that existed between Boston and Cleveland has gotten a bit tighter. But more important to the Celtics?

That gap will be non-existent a year from now.


That’s when LeBron James will likely take his talents out West while the Celtics will have a core of Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford with a second wave of talent on the rise that includes Tatum and Brown.

That core, along with the young players behind them, gives the Celtics the kind of squad that stands eye-to-eye with Cleveland now and will soon blow past the Cavs and set its sights on the team everyone is chasing, the Golden State Warriors.

And that’s why for Boston, this deal will go down as one of the great trades in franchise history.

In trading Thomas for Irving, Boston got bigger and younger . . . and did it without sacrificing the present or the future.

Re-signing Thomas was going to be a priority for the Celtics this summer, but they knew it was going to be costly with Thomas, an unrestricted free agent next summer, likely in line for a deal similar to the one Toronto gave Kyle Lowry (three years, $100 million).

Meanwhile, Boston has Irving under contract for the next two years earning $18.9 and $20.1 million, respectively and would not have made the trade if they didn’t get a strong sense that they would be able to re-sign him. So that will create a two-year (or more) window for Boston to compete for Eastern Conference supremacy. And beyond that, makes them a legit title contender sooner rather than later.

Cleveland had little choice but to move on from Irving, who had demanded a trade on July 21.

Boston immediately moved near the front of the line due to its ability to offer an All-Star (Thomas), young talent (Brown orCrowder), a potential impact rookie ( Tatum) in addition to quality draft picks. was told that the Cavs were not willing to talk about a trade with the Celtics a couple weeks ago unless Tatum was involved. However, they struck out on getting a deal done with any team out West and later returned to the negotiating table to talk with Boston.

Knowing the Cavs had failed to get a deal done out West, Boston maintained its initial stance that Tatum was off-limits.

And while the pick in next year’s draft from Brooklyn has the potential to be the number one overall pick, the Celtics also have a first-round pick coming from the Los Angeles Lakers who may also be in the running for the top overall pick in next year’s big man-heavy draft.

No matter how you look at it, the Celtics have achieved what so few teams are able to do -- build for the future while strengthening their current position, which is one that has Boston firmly entrenched as one of the league’s top teams.


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