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.


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.”


Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?


Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?

After arriving in Boston and spending some time with his new teammates, Kyrie Irving felt good about this group doing big things this season. 

But when asked about the experience thus far being what he thought it would be, Irving responded, “It’s probably exceeded that.”

He’s not alone. 

Few would have envisioned the Celtics (15-2) would have the best record in the NBA at this point, let alone be riding a 15-game winning streak which ranks as the fifth-best winning streak in franchise history. 

Irving and his Celtics teammates will try and keep it going tonight when they take on the Dallas Mavericks.

Irving’s ability to mesh with his teammates and still find success was among the many questions out there when the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the blockbuster trade this offseason. 

Blending in has not been an issue for Irving, bolstered by the reality that his game stands out. 

We saw that in Boston’s 110-99 win over the Atlanta Hawks, which was a game in which Irving had 30 points on an insanely efficient 10-for-12 shooting night. 

There were many factors that went into Irving’s strong night against the Hawks, but he said it really came down to one thing above all else.

“I just made some damn shots for once,” Irving quipped. “That right there kind of made it seem better than I actually been shooting over the start of the season.  It would also contribute to being able to be in the right spots and guys being selfless in their approach driving to the basket or getting into the paint. It’s tell-tale sign of all of us getting more comfortable.”

Here are five below-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on as the Boston Celtics face the Dallas Mavericks, with Boston gunning for its 16th straight win. 


Jaylen Brown has been on a bit of an offensive tear of late, the last being a career-high 27-point performance in Boston’s win over Atlanta. But even more telling is how well things seem to flow with him on the floor. Brown’s plus/minus this season is +146 which is tops among all players in the Eastern Conference. His closest competition in the East? That would teammate Al Horford whose plus/minus this season is +143. In addition, Horford has had a positive plus/minus in every game this season. 


You can count Yogi Ferrell among the ones that got away from Brad Stevens when he was coaching at Butler. Ferrell, who played at Indiana, was a player on Stevens’ radar when he was coaching at Butler. “I recruited Yogi, unsuccessfully,” Stevens told reporters in Dallas. While Ferrell came on strong as an undrafted free agent with the Mavericks last season, Stevens said there’s nothing about Ferrell’s game now that he didn’t see when he tried to woo him to Butler. “He would have been awfully good at Butler,” Stevens said.


While Marcus Smart grew up in Flower Mound, Texas (less than an hour from Dallas), tonight’s game is a homecoming of sorts for another Celtics player – Semi Ojeleye. The 6-foot-7 forward played at SMU which is located in Dallas. A second-round pick by Boston in last June’s NBA draft, Ojeleye has been among the many surprise performers for the Celtics this season. “We knew he could be a versatile defender,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Probably has exceeded our expectations in that regard with his ability to guard one (point guard) through five (center) at certain times. And he’s been pretty consistent shooting the ball. Right now, embracing that kind of 3-and-D role is what he has to do and he’s done it well.”


The Boston Celtics struck gold by drafting Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick. But as you look at the teams that had lottery picks in last June’s NBA draft, few come away feeling disappointed or discouraged by the player selected. The Dallas Mavericks are among the teams pleased with their first-round pick, Dennis Smith Jr. who was selected with the ninth overall pick. He has emerged as one of the top rookies this year, averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. And yes, he was a player that was on the Celtics’ radar leading up to last June’s draft. “We had Dennis in and he was really impressive,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a guy that’s going to have a great career and he’s got good veteran players around him to help kick it off.”


The numbers aren’t anywhere close to what we’ve seen for the bulk of Dirk Nowitzki’s illustrious career that’s now in Year 20. But there is a demeanor about him that seems to be at peace with where he’s at basketball-wise, even if the wins aren’t nearly as plentiful as he’s accustomed to. “I appreciate his game a ton,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Just watching him talk on the court, cheer on the bench, sit at the scorer’s table with a smile on his face. You can’t play this long and be this good this long if you don’t’ love it. Everybody says they love it, but he’s got a different level of passion. You can feel it, you can see it. You root for guys like him to have success.”


WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks


WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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