Kyrie wanted out and now he is out. LeBron wanted him gone and now he is gone. So goes the soap opera that was unthinkable 14 months ago but this is how quickly the NBA version of a telenovela can turn for the worst. The victims here aren’t James or Irving. Both will get paid and prosper and go on and do what they have done before. The Cleveland fans, once again, must suffer. As good as Isaiah can be with the ball, he’s not Kyrie. That will take a moment to marinate.
For sure, Irving’s march to the Finals is over in the short term. Cavs fans won’t have to watch him hoist a trophy. LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas are still better than Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. But let’s be clear about what happened here. Kyrie Irving has one championship more than Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. If the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a 105 mile an hour fast ball coming straight at you, then the second hardest thing to accomplish is to win a NBA title after a 82 game season and a 25 game postseason. Irving will see how different life is without LeBron. But if he is happier without LeBron, then so be it.
For his part, LeBron can’t pretend up is down. Isaiah Thomas is not the same as Kyrie Irving,. Their games are vastly different even though they both make threes. Neither’s defense is worth a damn. But Kyrie does magical things with the ball in the lane, off the dribble, on one foot, changing hands. He is gifted offensively. Isaiah is talented offensively. There is a difference.
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LeBron’s drives in the paint will get buckets for Isaiah. And let’s add in Derrick Rose. The point guard combo of Isaiah and Rose is a nice match of speed, off the dribble (Rose) and perimeter shot making (Thomas). While Rose has never been an efficient scorer, he is a driver. He beats his man off the dribble. He finishes. Isaiah can drain shots and in the fourth quarter he finds a burst of energy. He’s a clutch shot maker who doesn’t dominate the ball. He’s a team player who revels in team.
But as far as the divorce goes of LeBron and Kyrie, it’s not Kobe-Shaq, the mother of all basketball breakups,not even close. (3-1 in the Finals outshines 1-2). Yes, there is shock value here that gives it a social media gossip report card. That makes it more soap opera-ish than dramatic and let’s be real. LeBron James dismisses teammates, either passively or aggressively.
This recent summer saga was a NBA gift for everyone who was bored with the Warriors absolute dominance of everything NBA and the inability of the league to do anything to stop them. Now that Irving has both feet out the door, the speculation of what happens next begins. It is even juicer that the Cavs and Celtics open up against each other the first night of the season.
While its en vogue to label Irving the loser in these times of irreconcilable differences, he landed on his feet in a pretty good place. The Celtics are a quality defensive club with a coach that is attached to defensive principles. Irving will be a better defender when he leaves Boston than he was when he got there. LeBron, the one who was rejected, who was left, who had to hear of it through a third party and then react the way James always reacts, has another scorer to fill in. And Isaiah Thomas is a tough player. He plays through physical and emotional pain and look at where he has come from. He was the last player taken in the 2011 draft while Kyrie Irving was the first player taken in that same draft.
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LeBron has serious things to think about. He is fighting for his legacy. He is the one arguing to be considered the best player ever. Because of Isaiah’s expiring contract, it is not out the question to consider a James- Westbrook Cleveland partnership in 2018. The Cavs traded an exceptional talent and they added financial flexibility.
Getting divorced always hurts the kids more than the parents; the kids are the innocent ones. And so the fans will have to make peace with their NBA Finals hero Kyrie Irving in a Celtics jersey. The fans will love Isaiah Thomas. He was an underdog who most said would never have a NBA career because of his size. He has proven everyone wrong. He had to deal with heartbreak while in the playoffs and was the toughest competitor. Isaiah is a fun loving, likeable personality. But he’s not Kyrie.
It’s the NBA, though. No one remembers yesterday. It’s right now that matters.
photo via llananba