BOSTON – This isn’t how the Celtics envisioned their third go-around against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Instead of locking in on trends and specific matchups that worked in the past, the Celtics are back to the preparation drawing board, courtesy of the Cavs’ massive overhaul of their roster at the trade deadline heading into Sunday's matchup.
“All the film goes out of the window, I’ll tell you that,” said Kyrie Irving, the former Cavs star whose intimate knowledge of the Cleveland franchise doesn’t do him much good now. “I think everyone is at a high anticipation of what they’ll look like.”
For those who missed all the Cavs-related comings and goings at the trade deadline – and there were a lot of them - here’s a rundown of what transpired on Thursday, a deadline day absolutely dominated by Cleveland.
Former Celtic Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and Cleveland’s 2018 first-round pick were traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., whose father was one of the all-time greats for the Cavaliers.
Cleveland was also part of a three-team trade that landed them George Hill from Sacramento and Rodney Hood from Utah, while sending ex-Celtic Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose to the Jazz and Iman Shumpert to Sacramento.
The Cavs also traded Dwyane Wade back to Miami for a heavily protected second-round pick that Cleveland immediately sent to Sacramento.
While it remains to be seen how the new-look Cavs will work together, Cleveland has already accomplished one of its primary goals. which was to become younger, more athletic and more versatile.
"It's not about what the other guys didn't bring or what these guys bring," Cleveland’s LeBron James told reporters following Cleveland’s win over Atlanta, a game in which Cleveland only had nine players in uniform due to all the physicals among the traded players not being completed. "We're all professionals and we were happy with the guys that we had, and we're going to [be] happy with the guys that we have now. That's the way the league is. It's a business. There's no shade on anybody."
Boston didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline, but earlier they did pick up center Greg Monroe after he was bought out by Phoenix.
The 6-foot-11 veteran has played in two games for Boston, averaging 3.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game.
In Boston’s 97-91 loss to Indiana on Friday night, Monroe did not play (coach's decision) in the second half.
“I thought I could have gone with anybody in that group at the big spots,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “But with the desire to really execute at a high level, I felt like we had to go with the guys that have been here. And then when we had to play small after our starting group, I felt like, because speed was an issue in the first half for our team.”
Cleveland may find itself grappling with a similar dilemma on a much larger scale today. While the new additions have had a couple days to familiarize themselves with the play calls and various sets, it’s not the same as actually doing it in a full practice.
There’s another difference between the Celtics adding Monroe and the changes made by Cleveland.
Boston acquired Monroe to provide added depth to a frontcourt that only has one true center in Aron Baynes.
The deals made by Cleveland were done to bolster the Cavs’ starting unit (Hill is slated to start at point guard) as well as their bench, which only enhances the likelihood that with so many new faces, the Cavs won’t be quite as sharp as they will likely be later in the season once the newcomers get a few games under their belt.
Cavs GM Koby Altman knew he had to make some significant changes to the roster for the Cavs to best compete for another trip to the NBA Finals.
“Just like it’s been a tough year for everybody, we’re all disappointed in our production on the floor,” Altman said in a conference call. “From myself to T-Lue [coach Tyronn Lue] and the players, this is not sort of what we envisioned and to sort of see the players’ eyes light up with some of these deals, it was great to see some of the coaches’ eyes light up with some of these deals.”