By Mark Paulette and Sterling Pingree
Danny Ainge finally made a big trade and in reaction Mark and Sterling didn’t know what to do, but they had to talk about it. The following is their conversation, just 2 hours after the announcement of the trade that sends Kyrie Irving to Boston.
Sterling: DANNY DID IT, HE FINALLY DID IT!! 10 years after the KG trade, Ainge made a huge move. Kyrie Irving, for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Zizic and the 2018 Brooklyn #1.
Mark: For two years I have been asking for ‘something more.’ “Horford is just a name at this point.” “Hayward is good, but they still don’t have the star-power Cleveland possesses.” I don’t know what to make of this?! It’s like wanting a new sound system in your car and being handed a brand new Corvette. Like wanting butter with your 8oz steak and getting a 24oz filet!
Sterling: I’m not sure I follow the butter/steak analogy, but I love steak and I love this trade. Celtics fans have clamored for a star and you look at the name that’ve been thrown out there the most in the last two years and you quickly notice a couple of things. Jimmy Butler and Paul George were uttered the most and when both were traded in the offseason, people crushed Ainge for not being aggressive enough in going after these stars. Now, a superstar becomes available and Danny still has the assets to make the deal. Perhaps really the only team that had the mixture of picks and NBA talent to make a trade happen. I mean if you had your druthers, would you rather have Butler, George or Kyrie? And is that even a discussion?
Mark: Paul and Butler are great, there’s no debating that. And like many, I lamented Danny for not making a strong play for either of the pair. But Kyrie is currently a top-10 player in the NBA and he’s yet to hit his peak…A former #1, he’ll be 25 years old this season and averaged 25 points per game last year. We know the ceiling with Isaiah. It was last year, and don’t get me wrong, it was great. But who knows how good Kyrie can be? Especially out of LeBron’s shadow.
Sterling: Exactly and that’s what happens in the NBA, guys become available that you can’t forecast in advance. IF I had told you a year ago that Kyrie Irving was going to be available, not going to the Celtics but just that the Cavs were making him available, you would have called me insane. Remember, After the 2015-16 season, Kyrie was an NBA champion and if you recall, as a 23-year old, it was Kyrie, not Lebron that hit the game winning 3-pointer to win the Finals in game 7, on the road against a team that won 73 games.
Mark: But wait! “He can’t defend,” they say. Wasn’t it Kyrie who disrupted and harassed Steph Curry in that series? In a year when Steph put up historic numbers and won a second consecutive MVP. You lose absolutely nothing on offense, I’d argue you actually gain a more dynamic play maker as Kyrie has equal scoring abilities comparable with IT, though has the athletic frame to drive to the basket. A quality which we saw, once the lights turned on and guys (like Irving) actually started playing defense on Thomas, he was simply too small to be as effective underneath. And for arguments sake, even if you’re trading the league’s worst defender for the league’s 1A worst defender, Kyrie is still seven inches taller…
Might I add…Tweet of the night goes to Tom Westerholm, Celtics reporter for MassLive.com. – Danny Ainge: “We traded Avery Bradley.” The masses: “WHO WILL GUARD KYRIE?” Ainge: “Hold my non-alcoholic beverage.”
Sterling: Haha, that’s the tweet of the night. Problem solved. Off of that, did you see, Adam Kaufman of 98.5 The Sports Hub pointed out, the Celtics are only bringing back 4 players from last year’s ECF team. (Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier) Bigger picture of the off season in totality, it’s staggering that the team is going to look so different. I think we see this team as a continuation of this bigger plan, but really, Danny Ainge just took the second best team and made them the best in the East, but he didn’t just make a couple of small additions to do so. He essentially blew up the second best team in the conference and made them better in one off season. How different is this team? Of the four guys Kaufman listed, only one of them was a starter last season. Horford)
Mark: So in that sense, should we expect a little of the early struggles that Cleveland went through two years ago when they added LeBron and Love? I believe they were 19-18 at one point? We saw it too in Miami when James and Bosh joined Wade. It may take a month or two for this team to gel. I don’t expect a crazy win total, (though the weak East should help matters) but when the dust settles this team should no-doubt be the top dog.
Sterling: I think you’re right that at least initially the expectations need to be realistic. There probably will be some struggles, that won’t stop people from freaking out if Washington leads the East at Christmas.
Let’s talk about Isaiah Thomas. It is sad to see IT leave, been a really good Celtic, felt like we had some moments with him during the playoffs last year. BUT, the elephant in the room, that even after his epic 53-point game against Washington, that fans didn’t want to talk about was: is he a max guy? Thomas is a free agent after this season, do you want to give him the max that it would take to keep him and did IT openly saying all summer that the Celtics were going to have to back up the Brinks truck hurt his chances of staying? Will Cleveland give him the max?
Mark: If they do, they will do more than simply back up the Brinks truck. They will break the bank. You’re already paying LeBron roughly $33 million/year, and he too will be on the open market and likely seeking a raise. The Cavs are going to be back to square one of top-loading their roster’s salary and having to make do with the likes of Dahntay Jones to fill out their bench. On that note, Kyrie is making $18 and $20 million the next two years. Biggest bargain in the NBA. Not even close.
Sterling: That’s how fast things are moving in the NBA these days, a contract signed 2 years ago now is dwarfed in a matter of months AND THE SALARY CAP DIDN’T GO UP AS PREDICTED! Because of size, and that’s probably wrong of me, I’m much more excited about giving Kyrie Irving the max over IT, the hip injury certainly doesn’t help my confidence.
Mark: Sizest! But yes, Kyrie is max player, Isaiah is not. At least a true max, not this Otto Porter crap. Thomas is one of the game’s finest scorers but that’s basically where his resume ends. Yes, he’ll make the highlight plays because he forces the defense to respect him and leave others open. And yes, he has certain intangibles you can’t teach. The postseason last year is a testament to that. But basketball is a game played by giants. IT claims if he was 6’6″ he’d be the best player in the world. It’s a hard point to argue based off what he’s able to do with his stature. But he’s still 5’8″, and because of that, Kyrie is more suited to dominate in this league. He’s not only a larger version of Thomas, but a more well-rounded player as well.
Everything Isaiah can do, Kyrie can do equal, if not better. It may be because of the size difference, but it’s just the simple truth.
Sterling: IT at 6’6″ would be the best player in the world and if my feet fit a railroad track I’d be a helluva train.
The Celtics got better than they were to start the day, they now have a seat at the adults table of the NBA and this season just got much much more interesting.
Mark: Dare I say…few teams have played the Warriors with the same level of competitiveness over the past two years as the Celtics have…
Sterling: Don’t forget that it’s only 4 guys from this roster just 3 months ago, but as the song goes, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life and I’m fee-eeling good.”
Mark: Let’s see Jeff Solari say Danny Ainge doesn’t merit the praise he receives now.
By the way, he’s set to be on the cover of NBA 2K18. So if there’s one downside to this deal, it’s that New England now has arguably its two best players on video game covers. That’s never good.
Sterling: Well this changes everything.
Mark: Let IT take the cake.
Mark Paulette is the Senior Producer of The Drive and Sterling Pingree is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.