By Tom Mahoney
I think the shock of the first few games in the Eastern Conference Finals made the Cavs look like the 1960s Celtics. But the biggest reason why we lost that Series was that Isaiah was injured from Game One on, and we didn't know it. He SHOULD NOT have played a game in that series. He was a 29 PPG scorer (who also averaged 5.9 Assist Per Game), who suddenly couldn't get any Cavs' defenders' shoulders to get to the basket. Even the Cavs have to admit that if Isaiah hadn't hurt his hip in Game Six against the Wiz (and reinjured it in Game One) it would have been a much different story.
Plus, Isaiah literally got his teeth kicked, and had the tragedy with his sister in the Playoffs. "When you think about it, obviously this and the teeth are nothing compared to the way the playoffs started, losing his sister," Stevens said. "I mean, he's had a remarkable-remarkable year through some really difficult circumstances. The whole story is pretty remarkable. But again I think the best part about it from all of our standpoint was how inspiring it's been to have a guy that's done all this, and accomplished all this, and is willing to literally go out and leave it all out there." And let's be very-very clear, he injured his hip against the Wizards in Game Six.
And he reinjured it against the Cavs. "Isaiah has worked tirelessly to manage this injury since it first occurred," Dr. McKeon said. "The swelling increased during the first two games against Cleveland, and in order to avoid more significant long-term damage to his hip, we could no longer allow him to continue." He shouldn't have been playing in those first two games at all.
He was clearly not playing at full strength, and looked like half the player he was against the Wiz. It wasn't a choke by Isaiah, or a strategic masterpiece by the Cavs. It was just a little too much courage and toughness that kept him going when he should have been on the bench in Game One.
The narrative that it was the Cavs "strategy" to take Isaiah out of the offense, and let the other Celtics score, is stupid. And clearly incorrect on all levels. "Isaiah Thomas underwent tests at hospital for a sore right hip after Game 6 of conference semifinals, Danny Ainge confirmed," Mannix twitted. "Internally, there were doubts Thomas could play in Game 7. He gutted it out, and again in Game 1. Injury, though, considered significant." He clearly had lost his elite burst that he uses to get past any defender they put in front of him from Game One on.
Now that we know that Isaiah shouldn't have been playing in Game One and Two you have to look back at that series much differently. Because at that time it was a heart-wrenching shock. Now? It makes sense. Isaiah couldn't drive past Derrick Williams for Auerbach sakes. If Isaiah was healthy the Celtics had a chance to spread the Cavs out, and put up a real fight against that flawed Cavs team.
What would have happened to the Cavs if LaBron hurt his hip against the Raptors in Game Three instead of Isaiah? The Celtics would have won it in five. Isaiah was every bit as important to the Celtics last season as LaBron was to the Cavs. So don't give me this crap that the Celtics can't beat the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals next year. If not for a hip they could have beat them this year. And next year, and the Celtics have all the extra experience of playing and watching the veteran Cavs operate in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Plus, we just added a Western Conference All-Star who averaged 21.9 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 5.4 RPG last season. In a great stat that I heard somewhere, he shot more shots with less than 4-seconds on the shot clock, because of Utah's slow it down offense, than anyone else last season. As for where he fits? How does this sound: Isaiah, Brown (if they trade Bradley), Hayward, Guerschon Yabusele, Horford. Granted, they have a big hole at power forward that has to be addressed. Not sure how they will fill that (but I'm not ah-scared of Brown playing PF on Tristan Thompson in the Eastern Conference Finals).
As for the kids, Brown and play shooting guard and small forward, and maybe get some minutes at power forward to spread teams out. While Tatum is a SF/PF, and I think his eventual position with be as a stretch-4 who can do so much more. Those two guys will give Stevens more bench versatility this season than any other team has.
This years Celtics are are leaps and bounds ahead of the Isaiah-less team that faced the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. All their young players will a year older, especially Jaylen Brown. Isaiah will be able to play on two hips instead of one, and not be the Zombie Isaiah who played in Games One and Two (and that scares the Cavs).
Plus, they just added a Western Conference All-star who led the Jazz to a victory over the Clippers in the 1st round of the Playoffs. He lead all scorers on both teams in three of the last four games in that series, including the last two. He also averaged almost 25 PPG (99-points in 4 games) against the Warriors, and lead all scorers with 33 in game two.
The Celtics went 1 and 1 in the final two games against the Cavs, once they adjusted to life without Isaiah. Next year they will have the real Isaiah Thomas and Gordon Hayward playing star roles against the Cavs. While the Cavs have been spending their off season tearing each other apart. So don't be shocked when the Celtics are in the Finals against the Warriors next season with a starting lineup of Isaiah, Bradley, Gordon, Brown, and Horford against the Warriors.
This story just keeps getting crazier and crazier. "The Jazz and Celtics discussed on Wednesday the possibility of including Crowder in a sign-and-trade agreement for Hayward, league sources said, which would be cap beneficial for Boston," Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski wrote. "Ultimately, Hayward himself will have to agree to a sign-and-trade, which could be perceived as a farewell gift to the Jazz franchise that drafted and developed him into an NBA All-Star." So the deal for Hayward is not sign sealed and delivered yet.
The Celtics want to get some Cap help from the Jazz for Crowder. "Boston has to unload one of those three," Blakely wrote. "And to be candid, it really doesn’t matter which one. All three of them, no matter where they end up, will help a team." And maybe another veteran like Bradley or Smart in a sign and trade.
"There are a lot of machinations to this deal, and how you'd clear enough salary cap space to acquire Gordon Hayward is to move a big salary, like a Jae Crowder," Mannix said. "The Celtics were on the phone with a number of teams, talking about Marcus Smart, talking about Avery Bradley, trying to take the temperature to see what they can get back. To make this deal happen quickly. And they do have to make this deal happen quickly. Putting Jae Crowder in the deal is an easy way to clear some of that cap space and create a roster spot for Gordon Hayward."
Which makes sense as I think Brown can slide nicely into that SG role. "The process of clearing contracts and salary-cap space started Tuesday, when Boston renounced Kelly Olynyk," Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski wrote. "But even if the team renounced the rights to Jonas Jerebko, James Young and Gerald Green, waived Jordan Mickey, left 2016 first-round pick Guerschon Yabusele in Europe this season and traded Demetrius Jackson's partially guaranteed contract and Terry Rozier, Boston would have $29,444,533 to sign Hayward, which is still about $300,000 short of his max." So while the "Decision" is done, the complexities are still being strangled out of the roster.
I think the Celtics are better off keeping Bradley on the Roster. "The Celtics have to make a complicated series of moves to create enough space to sign Hayward to the full max," Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski wrote. "But because the salary cap did not rise as much as projected, they likely will have to trade one or more of those three players to sign Hayward. Sources told ESPN that Boston has discussed trades involving Smart, Crowder and Bradley with at least half-dozen teams on Wednesday." Hey Danny! You could use a Power Forward. If they still exist anymore (Scal was talking about Talik Black and Dwayne Dedmon).
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First off what Jared was doing is not a "Backdoor". A "Backdoor" is a legal way to have private conversations with other world leaders for the benefit of America. What Jared set up was a Covert/Illegal/treasonous communication with a foreign enemy who was ATTACKING US! And let's be clear again:
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