Celtics

Isaiah at Cavs' intro: 'Excited to play with the best player in the world'

Isaiah at Cavs' intro: 'Excited to play with the best player in the world'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – It was only fitting that the introductory press conference for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic being introduced as Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t go quite as planned.
 
But just like the trade eventually getting done after some pretty tense moments, the players eventually showed up together (Jae Crowder’s flight was delayed) and said all the right things in their first official appearance as Cleveland Cavaliers.

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In addition to the players, the press conference also included Cavs general manager Koby Altman and coach (and former Celtics assistant) Tyronn Lue.

“It’s a great day for our franchise, adding these players to our team,” Altman said.
 
And while Thomas has acknowledged since the trade that he will miss Boston and its fan base dearly, he said he's also looking forward to playing with LeBron James.

“I’m excited to play with the best player in the world,” Thomas said. “I’ve been in situations before where things were tough, but we just kept fighting and worked for what we had. Being put in this situation on the court is everything. To play with the best player in the world, to play with a guy like Kevin Love and J.R. Smith and Derrick Rose and be coached by a guy like Tyronn Lue, who played in this league a long time, it’s like...a match made in heaven.”
 
The two teams came to an agreement on Aug. 22 to trade Kyrie Irving to Boston in exchange for Thomas, Crowder, Zizic and a 2018 unprotected first-round pick from Brooklyn, pending physicals.
 
Thomas suffered a hip injury last season that sidelined him for Boston’s final three playoff games against the Cavs and has yet to fully heal.
 
Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, said on a conference call shortly after the trade that Thomas might miss “some” time this season and added that his hip injury did play a role in the decision to trade him.
 
After the Cavs brought Thomas in for a physical, their doctors were concerned that he would miss more games than they had anticipated. Because of that, they felt they were due additional compensation from the Celtics in the form of a first-round pick.
 
Boston initially balked at the idea of giving more compensation.
 
Eventually, the two teams reached a compromise on Aug. 31 with Boston providing a 2020 second-round pick from Miami.
 
Altman declined to get into specifics regarding Thomas’ hip injury or a timeline for his return, but did indicate that the approach to dealing with Thomas’ injury is “a non-surgical plan.”
 
Thomas led all scorers in the Eastern Conference last season, averaging a career-high 28.9 points per game.
 
It was good enough to land him a spot on the All-Star team for the second consecutive season as well as a spot on the All-NBA second team.
 
Crowder is coming off a season in which he set several career highs with the Celtics, including minutes played (32.4), field-goal percentage (.463), 3-point percentage (.398), rebounds (5.8) and assists (2.2).
 
Zizic, drafted by the Celtics with the No. 23 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, is a high energy 7-footer who showed significant promise overseas while playing under former Cavs coach and Framingham, Mass., native David Blatt.
 
While the players were embracing their new team for the first time publicly, there’s no mistaking the impact Crowder and Thomas – Thomas specifically – made on Boston and his former coach Brad Stevens.
 
“What Isaiah did was special; Isaiah’s impact was special,” Stevens told CSN’s Kyle Draper. “I love Isaiah and he’ll always have that here; he’ll always have an impact in Boston that way. That’s the really hard part about this from a player or coaches’ perspective. With any change there’s an emotional cost attached; that’s a pretty significant emotional cost. I look forward to seeing him; not on the court, not against him because he’s a dynamite player. But I’m happy to have had a chance to work with him.

Stevens added, “Isaiah will always be special to me.”
 
The feeling goes both ways.
 
“That’s a guy that’s been in my corner since Day One,” Thomas said. “That’s a guy that allowed me to be great, and love me for who I was. He’s a special person in my life.”
 

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Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”