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The Boston Celtics have acquired All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn's 2018 unprotected first-round pick, the team announced Tuesday night.
"Kyrie is one of the best scorers in the NBA. He has proven that on the biggest stage, the NBA Finals, the last three years," said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. "He's been an NBA Champion, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and a four-time All-Star. For all he's accomplished, we think his best years are ahead of him."
Irving, 25, requested a trade during a July meeting with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Irving wants to play in a situation where he can be more of a focal point and that he no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James, sources said. He averaged a career-high 25.2 points last season.
Irving has three years and $60 million left on his contract, but he can opt out of the final year before the 2019-20 season.
Thomas, 28, led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists over 33.8 minutes per game during the regular season.
Thomas has spent the offseason recovering from a right hip injury that kept him out of the final three games of the Eastern Conference finals. He opted not to have surgery. Ainge said in a conference call Tuesday night that Thomas' hip injury did play "some" into him making the deal.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Monday that he was not sure Thomas would be ready for the start of training camp, but that further medical tests in September would determine that timeline.
Thomas will become a free agent when his contract expires at the end of June. He has said he believes he's worthy of a maximum contract.
Thomas had been bracing for the possibility of a trade on Tuesday, league sources said.
"Isaiah embodied what it meant to be a Celtic. He captured fans' hearts not only with his spirit, but his personality," said Ainge. "Jae's toughness was contagious for our team. He improved his skills each year, but it's his energy and fight that will be remembered. We wish them and their families the very best."
Crowder has been a core piece of the Celtics' resurgence. A solid perimeter defender, the 27-year-old forward averaged 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. He also has one the friendliest cap numbers in the NBA -- $6.8 million, $7.3 million and $7.8 million. He does not become a free agent until the summer of 2020.
"Isaiah and Jae have been a huge part of our success," said Celtics co-owner and governing partner Wyc Grousbeck. "Isaiah's playoff performance under very difficult circumstances will live on in history, and we wish them all the best."
Zizic was the Celtics' first-round pick in 2016, the 23rd overall. He's a highly regarded 20-year-old out of Croatia described by ESPN's Fran Fraschilla as "one of my favorite kids in this draft. He's 6-11, 240. He has a mean streak." In addition to his tremendous upside, Zizic was also included for salary purposes.
Irving waived a $5.8 million trade kicker --15 percent of total money remaining on his Cleveland deal, to join Boston, sources said.
When asked for LeBron James' reaction to the deal, a source close to James told ESPN, "LeBron will be ready at training camp no matter what."
The trade will give Cleveland $29.1 million in tax savings. Cleveland's tax is now $49.3 million, down from $78.4 million.
Irving was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. Thomas was the last.
It will make for an interesting opener for both teams. The Celtics and Cavaliers open the season in Cleveland on Oct. 17.
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