With news breaking yesterday that Kyrie Irving would not be returning to the Boston Celtics for their postseason run, fans’ attention has turned to hindsight.
The storyline coming out of Boston’s summer trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers was another Danny Ainge heist. He sent an injured Isaiah Thomas and a couple coins to Cleveland for a shiny dollar bill in Irving. Now, everyone has come to the jarring realization that the Cavaliers parted with a potentially injured piece as well.
That blockbuster is being dragged back under the public microscope. Would Ainge have pulled the trigger if he’d known that prized acquisition would peter out after 60 games and need five months to recover from surgery that will force him to miss the postseason?
According to Paul Flannery of SB Nation, on a new episode of Celtics Beat with Adam Kaufman, the answer is an emphatic yes.
“[Ainge] referred to Kyrie as basketball royalty. And that’s what he is. He was the number one recruit. He was the number one college player, even though he didn’t play a lot because he had an injury. He was the number one overall pick. He is a whatever-time All Star. All that kind of stuff. He is royalty in the basketball world,” said Flannery. “And you add those guys, you take shots at those guys. That’s why you go get them.”
Flannery, who spent many years on the Celtics beat with WEEI, wasn’t the biggest Irving fan before this season. With his play in helping Boston threaten for the No. 1 seed despite Gordon Hayward’s absence, the Celtics All-Star won him over.
“I had my doubts, frankly, when they made that trade because I didn’t view Kyrie that way,” SB Nation’s NBA Columnist told Celtics Beat. “My opinion of that has changed, having had the opportunity to watch him on a nightly basis until the injuries. My opinion on that changed a little bit. He’s better than I thought he was.”
Ainge’s willingness to take a chance on acquiring a true NBA superstar may not be paying off this spring, but Flannery still believes the right call was made.
“Those are the things you have to do if you want to win a championship,” he told Kaufman. “and it doesn’t always work out in your favor.”
Kaufman also believes the right call is being made now, with the Celtics shutting Irving down for the postseason. He related it back to 2009 when Kevin Garnett was in a similar will-he or won’t-he situation.
“When KG was hurt in 2009 there was a lot of subtle pressure for him to go play. There was an expectation,” said Flannery, who noted he once heard that someone hung Garnett’s uniform in his locker. “And he never came back. And there was a little bit of criticism headed his way, in that direction. And when they went in and they took a look they found something serious behind the knee. And they had to take care of it. And it could have really damaged him if he had played. I think precaution is really good.”