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Thomas' hip injury could delay start of his Cavs season, Celtics' Ainge says

By MARLA RIDENOUR • Aug 23, 2017 at 7:08 PM

CLEVELAND — The hip injury that kept Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas out of the final three games of the Eastern Conference finals did not require surgery, but could mean he won't be ready for the start of Cavaliers training camp.

Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, said in a conference call with Boston media Tuesday night that the condition of Thomas' hip played a part in the blockbuster deal. The Celtics traded Thomas, small forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn's first-round pick in 2018 to the Cavs for four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving.

Thomas, 28, was hurt in March, then re-aggravated the injury when facing the Cavs in May.

"There's going to be probably a little bit of a delay for Isaiah as he starts the season this year," Ainge said of Thomas's hip on the conference call, posted on Celtics.com. "But I think Isaiah should be fine and healthy as the season goes along."

The Cavs will hold media day on Sept. 25, with their first practice the next day. Thomas will undergo a physical at the Cleveland Clinic.

With one year remaining on his contract, Thomas turns 29 on Feb. 7 and will be seeking a max deal in free agency.

Thomas, 5-foot-9, is a two-time All-Star and was second-team All-NBA in 2017. He captured the hearts of fans worldwide when he played in the Celtics' postseason opener a day after the death of his 22-year-old sister, Chyna, in an automobile accident.

"Trading both guys was tough. Isaiah had just an amazing season this year, entertained the whole city of Boston and everybody fell in love with him. He's such an underdog because of his size and his heart and the spirit with which he plays. It was very challenging to make this decision," Ainge said.

Ainge would not get into detail about the phone calls he made to Thomas and Irving, but said Irving was "very excited about coming to the Celtics."

Ainge said the trade the Celtics made was not available a month ago, but that they had been in discussions with the Cavs "for quite a while." Irving has two years remaining on his contract, with a player option for a third.

"It is a high price tag, it is a great value that we're giving up. We love Isaiah, we love Jae Crowder and we're just getting to know Ante Zizic, who we watched and nurtured over the last year, and giving up a quality first-round pick," Ainge said. "Acquiring a 25-year-old perennial All-Star, a player that fits a timeline for us and is a fantastic offensive player, one of the best offensive players in the league, you have to pay a heavy price."

Ainge saw Irving as a better fit for a Celtics roster that has Marcus Smart, 23, as its longest-tenured player.

"His age and experience is a great fit for us with where we are with some of our younger players," Ainge said of Irving. "His ability to score in a variety of ways, shooting from the 3 and getting to the basket are elite. He's shown that the last three years in the NBA Finals. At the age of 25, it's very unique and very special what he's been able to accomplish against the best competition in the world.

"It's extremely rare to be able to trade for a 25-year-old player that's done what he's done in his career and the offensive weapon that he is. We know we're paying a heavy price and love the guys that were here and we really didn't want to give up any of those pieces to make this deal work. But we're excited to have Kyrie."

Ainge said the Celtics talked to many people to explore Irving's motives in wanting to leave the Cavs, who have reached three consecutive NBA Finals and won the championship in 2016. Asking the Cavs to be traded on July 7, Irving sought to escape the shadow of four-time league MVP LeBron James and become more of a centerpiece elsewhere.

"We feel comfortable with who Kyrie is and who he can be. We feel like his best basketball is still ahead of him," Ainge said.

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(c)2017 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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