Chants of “M-V-P”, “M-V-P”, “M-V-P” echoed in The Garden as Isaiah Thomas put the finishing touches on a 53 point, near record-breaking night. On the birthday of Isaiah Thomas’ late sister, Chyna Thomas, the Boston Celtics took hold of a 2-0 lead over the Washington Wizards, and “the little guy” dropped the second most points in Celtics playoff history. These rare, once-in-a-lifetime moments, coupled with his raw emotion and heart-on-sleeve mentality are precisely what made Isaiah not only an instant sensation but also one of the most beloved Celtics in the franchise’s unparalleled history.
It was initially reported in the late afternoon of August 22, 2017 that the Celtics had plans to trade a package that included Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. As hours passed, and many nervous Celtics fans, myself included, found themselves clicking Safari’s refresh button ad nauseum. Eventually, the “final” deal became clearer. The Cavaliers were to receive Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 1st round draft selection in exchange for Kyrie Irving. Fans, analysts, and fellow players alike all found themselves in shock. How could Boston do such a thing? How could Danny Ainge ship off the Celtics’ present and future in one evening? It is worth noting that mid-way through the NBA offseason Kyrie Irving asked the Cavaliers to be traded. Knowing that Irving wanted out of Cleveland, the Cavaliers found themselves in the unfortunate position of trying to trade away perhaps their most prized asset for what would likely be a diminished price.
Less than one week after the trade had reportedly been finalized, the Cavaliers announced their dissatisfaction with the recovery of Isaiah Thomas’ hip, an injury he sustained, quite ironically, while squaring off against Cleveland in May’s Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately for the Celtics, the Cavs did have the right to negate the trade if they so choose, an option the C’s had no interest in at all, knowing that a recently betrayed Isaiah Thomas would be very unlikely to re-sign when he entered unrestricted free agency next summer. Therefore, in a matter of days, the Celtics had gone from having all of the leverage they could possibly ask for in acquiring Kyrie Irving to having none at all. When the negotiating was all said and done, the Cavs managed to squeeze an additional 2020 second-round pick out of the Celtics.
Despite widespread outrage both within the Belmont Hill community and beyond (rumor has it Fifth Former Nick Daley even shed a tear over the departures of Ante Zizic and Jae Crowder), Ainge was not entirely unjustified in acquiring Irving, even if it was for a king’s ransom. First off, Isaiah Thomas, who finished third in MVP voting this past season, has made his intentions for next offseason no secret. In fact, Thomas is on record saying the Boston would need to “back up the Brink’s truck” in order for him to remain a Celtic. Furthermore, Kyrie Irving, a twenty-five-year-old former first overall pick, models the Celtics’ long-term timeline precisely. According to Fifth Former John Gaudian, Irving, with the help of veteran leader Al Horford and newcomer Gordon Hayward, have the potential to form a new, powerful big-3 in Boston, the likes of which we have not seen since Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce shared the court.