The Celtics knew from the very outset that acquiring Kyrie Irving from Cleveland was going to be costly.
They agreed to trade Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 unprotected first-round pick from Brooklyn to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Irving.
And the Cavs knew that regardless of seemingly being under the gun to move Irving following his request for a trade earlier this summer, they had to get a good haul in return.
They got a deal done, but that’s in limbo after Thomas’ physical with Cleveland on Friday. It raises what one league source tells CSNNE.com are “definite concerns” about Thomas' hip injury, which may not heal as quickly as they thought with surgery now becoming a very real possibility.
Both sides have reportedly resumed talks on how to move past this latest development with Thomas, knowing the fallout from this deal not getting done will be significant for both teams.
For Boston, it means they will have their core group back from last season’s team that Danny Ainge, because of this trade, was clearly wanting to move on from.
How's that going to play out in the locker room?
And Cleveland may have to look for another deal involving Irving, knowing they won’t get anything close to the combination of players (Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic) and picks (Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 pick which will likely be a top five selection) that Boston had agreed to.
The idea of bringing Irving back is just as unappealing to Cleveland.
Still, Cleveland rookie GM Koby Altman wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t try and squeeze the Celtics for additional compensation based on Thomas’ health.
Players returning to the teams that tried to trade them would be an awkward start to the season with training camp less than a month away.
That’s why the idea of Boston including more assets in this deal, while certainly unappealing to the Celtics - who think they gave up significant assets already - might be the quickest way to get this deal done.
Contacted by CSNNE.com on Saturday, two league officials, who have been in contact with the Cavs regarding Irving since his trade request in July, still believe the trade with Boston will eventually get worked out.
“The only way the Cavs back out of this is if they saw something in his physical with them that gave them a reason to think that this could be a long-term, lingering-type injury even with surgery,” one source said.
The other source added, “Whatever the medical report says, the Cavs have to remember who they are dealing for, a guy who is as tough a player as you’ll find in this league, a guy who stepped his game up in the playoffs while dealing with a heavy heart following his sister’s death. It’s a cliché, but you really can’t measure how much heart this guy plays with. If you’re going to trade Kyrie, you trade him for a guy with Isaiah’s talent, a guy who has played through tremendous pain, physical and emotional, and stood out. I just think both teams are too far down this road together, to kill the deal. Walking away from it is a lose-lose for both teams.”
And, in all likelihood, if the Celtics decide to include another draft pick as additional compensation, it’s unlikely to be the protected first-round pick they'll receive next year from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Instead, it would likely be a second-rounder, which is what the Celtics received a few years ago when they were in Cleveland’s shoes following a trade for Jeff Green in 2012 from Oklahoma City.
After acquiring Green in February of 2011, he underwent season-ending heart surgery in December of 2012.
Boston put together a case that the Celtics were deserving of additional compensation due to information relative to Green that wasn’t made available to them at the time of the trade.
Then-NBA commissioner David Stern agreed, ordering the Thunder to send Boston a 2013 second-round pick.
The pick became part of the sign-and-trade deal Boston engineered with Houston for Courtney Lee in 2012.