By: Don Porcaro
Before you say it, I know, most conspiracy theories sound a bit crazy. Similar to most theories, this has to do with the NBA being a little suspicious with the way the league is run. Now before you call me crazy, no I don’t actually believe in this conspiracy theory but I’ve tried to at least convince myself it’s possible. Besides, these things are fun to read and actually think about.
Just a couple days ago, Kyrie Irving was traded to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the 2018 Brooklyn pick. This is what we do know. We also know Thomas had a hip issue that kept him off the court for the majority of the off-season so far. The Celtics knew it, the Cavs knew it, and pretty much everyone in the basketball world knew it.
So now, days after being traded, the Cavs are concerned with Isaiah’s hip? Cleveland knew the hip was an issue, and the Celtics were not hiding it by any means. In fact, hours after the deal was announced, Danny Ainge went on record saying the hip scared him. So why is Cleveland so concerned about it now?
I understand he went for a physical and the doctors could have found the hip was a lot worse than they expected, but why would the Celtics lie? If Boston knew the hip was so bad, they must have knew this was going to happen and the Cavs would ask to re-work or decline the deal. There was no way Danny Ainge actually thought he would pull a fast one on the Cavs medical team. With that being said, there has to be something else going on here.
Not to mention, Isaiah was the second or third most valuable asset in the deal. The trade was centered around the Brooklyn pick, and if Thomas does leave after next year, Zizic may be a more valuable asset in the long run. This hip was publicly discussed for months now, would Cleveland really make such a big deal over a short term player who has well known injury history?
This story started to get interesting when the reports came out that representatives from both Boston and Cleveland met privately in Italy to discuss the trade. It seems almost automatic that reports and rumors come out before a trade occurs, so why did this have to be so different? Was this discussion only about the trade for Kyrie, or could have there been other talks?
A complete swap of stars adds even more fuel to the fire of these two organizations. Cleveland vs Boston, or really LeBron vs Boston has been a highly fueled rivalry since LeBron's early years in the league. Now James’ right-hand-man and the heart of the Celtics switching teams is a tremendous story line. It almost seems like it’s straight from a WWE script of a heel vs babyface swap.
Now, there are reports of both front office’s furious with each other. Cleveland mad at Boston for not disclosing the full injury, and Boston mad at Cleveland for trying to take the deal back. This has become more than a player rivalry. This has now extended to the front offices, making for a very intriguing match-up against the two.
Speaking of match-ups, I’m sure fans can’t wait to see these two face off. Fortunately for them, they won’t have to wait long. In a strange coincidence, these two teams play each other on opening night. Now it does make sense, the two teams in the Eastern Conference finals matching up in the first game, but it hasn't been consistent with the NBA schedule. Last year, the Cavs played the Knicks on opening night, who haven't made the playoffs since the 2013 season. The Celtics opened up against the Brooklyn Nets last year, who had the worst record in the league. Just seems strange that now the NBA decides to take that route.
So what is the extent of this conspiracy theory? Well, it is possible that the members of Boston and Cleveland talked this out before the draft had even started. With an expiring I.T. contract and plenty of forwards, Boston went with Jayson Tatum, another forward out of Duke instead of point guard and sure #1 pick Markelle Fultz. They traded the #1 pick away to acquire the Lakers’ first round pick in 2018, which is assumed to have similar value to the Nets pick. Boston then drafted Tatum at 3.
With so many forwards and centers as the top 2018 prospects, Boston was not going to find much luck in finding a guard with the Nets pick. It’s possible Danny could have knew he had a franchise point guard in his back pocket. The deal for Kyrie could have been done a while back, which is why Boston went with a forward. Is it also a coincidence many people were worried Jae Crowder, another forward, would take minutes away from Jaylen and Jayson, and then he gets dealt to Cleveland? Danny must have had full confidence he was letting Jae go, especially after trading Avery Bradley to get yet another forward in Marcus Morris.
However, that doesn't explain why Danny traded Ante Zizic. The Celtics needed a young big and many assumed he was the perfect fit. How would they replace him without another high draft pick? Well, remember that L.A pick? Exactly. Danny will use that 2018 Lakers pick to draft a big man to replace Zizic as the young, premier big.
So what did the franchises have to gain in making this big fight? Well, for starters it adds fuel to the fire. Both teams appear to be furious with each other which will excite the fans even more. A trade between rivalries will really get this rivalry going, especially if Kyrie or Isaiah have a big game. Both fan bases will be itching for opening night with this rivalry in full effect.
So what happens after the first game between these two on October 17th? These two don’t see each other until after Christmas. The rivalry must die down a little, right? Well it just so happens the next time these two meet is January 3rd, in a primetime game on ESPN. The only difference, this one is at the Garden. If this hip injury is as serious as both teams assume, I.T. wont play opening night. That means the first time Thomas sees his old team will be at the Garden, 5 months after being traded. By then he will be healthy and ready to put on a show. The story line for opening night will be all about the front office, but the story line for the second meeting will be all about the return of Isaiah, facing his old team for the first time. It seems almost too good to be a coincidence.
Although this is a conspiracy theory, it seems everything lines up just too perfectly. Everything worked out for both teams and it is hard to think everything was just a coincidence. Thomas said it best, this is a business over everything. Could these two teams really be trying to fuel a rivalry?
(Photo CSN Philly)