The teams subsequently confirmed the deal, saying in a joint statement that they “agreed to modify the terms of the trade.”
The Cavaliers, who are also set to receive forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, had been balking at finalizing the trade after conducting a physical examination of Thomas. The high-scoring guard suffered a hip injury last season that ultimately forced him out of the Eastern Conference finals, in which his Celtics fell to the Cavs, and his recovery could linger into this season.
“I am not damaged,” Thomas told Wojnarowski Tuesday. “I’ll be back, and I’ll be the same player.”
Cleveland had reportedly been seeking further compensation in the deal, in the form of one of Boston’s talented young players or one of the multiple first-round picks the team holds for the next several years, but it apparently settled for a lesser addition. A deadline of 10 a.m. Thursday was looming for the teams to complete their trade, and Wojnarowski reported that “Boston would budge no more.”
Assuming the deal does go through, the Cavs will have done as well as could have been reasonably expected, in the wake of Irving’s trade demand. The four-time all-star, who helped Cleveland reach three straight NBA Finals and win its first title, was said to have grown weary of playing in LeBron James’s considerable shadow.
When Irving’s request to be dealt was made public, Cleveland lost much of its leverage in negotiations with other teams, but with a bevy of assets at its disposal, Boston was able to make a compelling offer. The Celtics had their own difficult decision to make with Thomas, a 5-9 dynamo who had become a fan favorite, as well as a two-time all-star, since joining the team in 2015, but who was entering the final year of his contract and was set to make upward $30 million per season.
In Irving, the Celtics get a former No. 1 overall pick who, at 25, is three years younger than Thomas and whose contract is set to pay him approximately $60 million over the next three seasons. Irving has an opt-out clause he can exercise in two years, but he has indicated that he might be willing to stay in Boston, and that team is confident it can keep him.
The Cavs could lose Thomas after this season, but the same possibility exists for James, who has his own opt-out-clause, and the draft picks, plus Zizic, help bolster the team’s future. For this season, Thomas, as well as Crowder, should help James keep Cleveland in strong contention for another NBA Finals appearance.
Cleveland’s 2020 second-rounder reportedly will arrive from the Miami Heat via the Celtics.