10 years ago, the Boston Celtics changed the landscape of the NBA to what we know it as today. Led by Danny Ainge, the team orchestrated two franchise-changing trades, first acquiring Ray Allen from the Seattle Supersonics and then Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves. That trade changed the culture of their franchise with the first championship win since 1986, and the dawn of an era in which more All-Star trios would be created.
Flash forward 10 years, and Ainge is once again shaking up the franchise in a few different ways. One angle is via draft picks (Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum); the other is via trade as he parted ways with the core of the franchise – Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder – along with the highly coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick and rookie center Ante Zizic. In return, the team acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It was my time to do what was best for me in terms of my intentions,” Irving said at the Introductory Press Conference at TD Garden. “That’s going after something bigger than myself.”
Along with Irving, the Celtics signed Gordon Hayward in free agency to a 4-year, $168 million deal, putting to rest the concept that the city isn’t a preferred destination for free agents. Signing Hayward led to the team having to send Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris, for salary reasons. Thomas’ recruiting was a factor in Hayward’s decision to sign with the Celtics, but the business of the NBA and the acquisition of Irving took Thomas out of the picture.
“I.T. did a tremendous job as far as helping recruit me here to the city of Boston,” said Hayward at the press conference.
The duo of Irving and Hayward was a possibility back in 2014, when the latter was a restricted free agent as a member of the Utah Jazz. Hayward was in Cleveland on a visit and entertained the idea of heading to “The Land,” until LeBron James decided he wanted to head back home, putting to rest for three seasons of the two teaming up.
“Then LeBron came and that kind of squashed that whole thing,” said Hayward.
Both Irving and Hayward are coming off of their best personal NBA seasons, and have a fresh new start on an up-and-coming team. More eyes will be on the team, with most of the attention being focused towards Irving, as he shockingly requested a trade from the three-time Eastern Conference champs.
“This was a very challenging decision at first,” Irving said.
The four-time All-Star, who’s been quiet throughout the entire debacle did confirm his trade request and relayed he hasn’t spoken to James since the request. Despite not talking to James, someone Irving has known since his teenage years, he did give thanks to the four-time league MVP for helping him develop.
“I learned so much from that guy,” Irving said.
Now, his journey to prove he can play without James will begin on Opening Night in Cleveland on Oct. 17. And weirdly, it’ll be as a member of the Celtics. Initially, the team wasn’t heavily linked to Irving as he made his trade request, but nonetheless, Ainge found a way to lure him into the green and white.
“Boston came at the right time,” said Irving. “It was meant to be.”
“When Boston came knocking, I was answering.”
With the possibility of the trade begin rescinded, Irving said he was just being “patient” as waited in Atlanta, filming his “Uncle Drew” movie.
The duo of Irving and Hayward will headline the new-look Celtics, but the team itself has a nice mix of youth, star power, versatility and rugged defense. As Irving has pointed out in his press conference, it’s a team effort. Even though most of the credit and criticism will go his way, he made sure to point he’s only one guy.
“Is there ever such thing as one person carrying the whole team? I don’t think so,” said Irving.
“There is no such thing as putting the team on your shoulders.”
Irving went on a slight tangent to showcase his appreciation for Brad Stevens.
“To understand how maniacal he is in terms of the finite details of maximizing what you can out of the players on the floor,” said Irving.
“The appreciation I have for his knowledge of the game, I just can’t wait to steal some stuff and honestly learn and grow.”
Just by watching the presser, anyone can get a grasp as to how close and friendly Irving and Hayward already are with each other. Before and during the press conference the two were just joking around and having fun.
“He’s a bad dude,” said Irving about Hayward.
“It’s about to be crazy, G,” Irving said to Hayward about the upcoming season.
Hayward gave thanks to Stevens in believing in his NBA dream. Hayward acknowledged that things are different now as he was a boy at Butler and is a man with the Celtics.
“He was the first person that made me realize I could get there maybe one day.”
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