The Cavaliers' trade of G Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for G Isaiah Thomas, F Jae Crowder, C Ante Zizic and a first-round pick satisfied the team's "short- and long-term goals of staying a championship contender in the now while saving for a rainy day" should LeBron James leave as a free agent next summer, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com (8/23). USA TODAY's Sam Amick notes new Cavaliers GM Koby Altman was "forced to plan on two tracks" -- life with and without James. With James’ future a story line that "won’t die down until the calendar sees July again, this was about as good as the Cavs could have hoped for" (USA TODAY, 8/23). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen writes James' looming free agency was the "invisible hand guiding the Cavs’ decision-making" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/23). The Cavs beat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and in DC, Tim Bontemps writes it is rare that "two teams at the top of the same conference ... make a trade." However, this was the "only trade" Altman could make for Irving (WASHINGTON POST, 8/23).
STRONG OUT OF THE BOX: SI.com's Ben Golliver writes Altman managed to "perfectly thread the needle by sending the correct short-term message to James without compromising the Cavaliers’ long-term flexibility" (SI.com, 8/23). In Akron, Marla Ridenour in a front-page piece writes Altman made the "best of an unimaginable set of circumstances as he tried to position the Cavs for next season and beyond." He had to keep "life without James at the forefront as he put together a blockbuster deal" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/23). ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton wrote Altman is in a "tricky situation." Should the Cavs "prioritize trying to win a championship now with James on the roster or start thinking about a potential future without him?" This trade allowed the Cavs to "accomplish both goals simultaneously" (ESPN.com, 8/22). ESPN's Adrian Wojnarwoski said, "League executives, players and coaches I talked to last night felt that Cleveland did a good job in this, maximizing what was a difficult situation" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 8/23). FS1's Chris Broussard said, "The most surprising element is that a rookie GM in Cleveland, who has only been the GM for less than a month, got the best of ‘Trader’ Danny Ainge" (“Undisputed,” FS1, 8/23). The Washington Post's Bontemps tweeted, "Home run move by new GM Koby Altman in his 1st deal." BasketballInsiders.com's Tommy Beer: "Altman hits a home run in his first at-bat." Yahoo Sports' Dan Devine: "Altman should get the day off." SB Nation's Brian Freeman: "Altman has already done more for the Cavs than David Griffin ever did."
GETTING A TAX BREAK: The trade reportedly will lower the Cavaliers' luxury tax bill for next season from a projected $78.4M to $59.2M (CLEVELAND.com, 8/22). ESPN's Mike Golic said, "You know who is happy right now? Dan Gilbert. He’s not writing as big of a tax check. The three players they got don’t even equal what Kyrie makes, so from the luxury tax situation that they have been shelling out … that won’t be as big this year” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 8/23).
IN DANNY WE TRUST: In Boston, Gary Washburn notes the "blockbuster" trade will be "one of those deals that defines" Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge's legacy (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/23). In N.Y., Frank Isola writes Ainge has a "history of pulling off blockbusters trades and this is one of his biggest" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/23). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote the move is the "type of do-or-die trade where you just have to admire" Ainge for "pushing a lot of his chips to the center of the table and saying, 'It’s now or never'" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 8/22). Also in Boston, Chad Finn writes under the header, "Three Cheers For Danny Ainge, Who Turned Assets Into Star Power." There is risk with the trade, but Ainge "isn’t averse to it; he embraces it." Finn: "If you have a beef with Ainge today, it had better be solely from that sentimental standpoint" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/23). The AP's Tim Reynolds writes the Celtics get "credit for being bold" (AP, 8/23).
THE PICKS ARE IN: The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Chris Fedor said the trade for the Celtics "is the deal that they have been waiting for so long." Fedor: "This is why you hoard all those draft picks" ("Takes by the Lake," CLEVELAND.com, 8/22). In Boston, Steve Bulpett writes Ainge is "not holding on to hope that a generational big man could be obtained" with the draft pick he included in the trade. He believes the core of Irving, F Gordon Hayward and C Al Horford is "enough to compete" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/23). ESPN's Mike Greenberg: "Danny Ainge is a guy who not long ago was being significantly criticized for having accumulated all of these assets and done nothing with them. They didn’t get Paul George, they didn’t get Jimmy Butler. Well now all of a sudden in the span of a boom-boom, it feels like they get Gordon Hayward and they get Kyrie Irving” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 8/23). USA TODAY's Amick notes the Celtics "should spend the next couple years contending for a title while restocking their shelves with young talent." In the next two years alone, they are "slated to have five first round picks" (USA TODAY, 8/23).
TRADING A TRUE FAN FAVORITE: In Boston, Mark Murphy writes Thomas more than any other Celtics player "did more to aid" the team's recruitment of free agents during the past two summers. He now has been "traded in the name of that quest for continued improvement" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/23). Also in Boston, Adam Himmelsbach in a front-page piece writes Thomas' "blue-collar work ethic resonated with Boston fans, and he opened his arms for a city that was more than willing to embrace him." However, Ainge has "never allowed personal feelings or relationships to tint his overarching goal: to bring another championship to Boston" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/23). CSN New England's A. Sherrod Blakely said the Celtics with Irving not only are "getting a player from a talent standpoint helps you, but also from a financial standpoint doesn't deliver as nearly as big a blow" as would re-signing Thomas to a max deal ("NBA Gametime," NBA TV, 8/22).
EASTERN PROMISES: In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes the "long-scorned Eastern Conference now has a sizzling rivalry to monitor all season" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23). NBCSPORTS.com's Dane Carbaugh wrote the "fight for supremacy in the East" is now "much more interesting and more complicated, not only for next season but in the years to come" (NBCSPORTS.com, 8/22). In DC, Des Bieler writes the trade gives the Cavs and Celtics "very different looks, and it promises to ratchet up their rivalry" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/23). The N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Isola notes the deal keeps both teams as the conference's "top two teams and adds another element of drama to a rivalry that has usually centered" around James (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/23).In N.Y., Scott Cacciola writes as if the deal itself "were not intriguing enough," the Cavs are slated to host the Celtics to open the NBA season on Oct. 17 (N.Y. TIMES, 8/23).