The Sports Report – by The Unlicensed Taxi Driver

Kyrie: on getting what you want, the flat earth theory, influence and impact on NBA legacies

Cavs Celtics trade – impact to LeBron, Kyrie and the NBA

Yesterday a shocking trade that became “breaking sports news” rippled through Twitter, other social media platforms and, oh by the way, “yesterday’s” platform for breaking sports news, ESPN. Perhaps it squeezed into your consciousness amidst the “Phoenix” (the town hall not anything about the Cardinals training camp) activity. However, if you’ve been paying attention and have some insight to the business, talent and personnel management philosophies currently at play in the NBA; this trade should have been no surprise.

Shocking, why shocking? What two, not quite arch rivals, but “number 1 vs. numbah two” teams in a conference execute a trade of any players, let alone the top players in this deal. Could the Red Sox make a comparable trade with the Yankees?

Many discussions have addressed the Kyrie situation, his initial trade request, the circumstances, the timing of any future requests and even potential suitors. For example, Bill Simmons in his podcast (in episode 247- I LOVE Bill’s work BTW) featured a breakdown of potential scenarios and “assets” available. Check it out – you could say he nailed it in compilation when compared to how this trade went down. Okay so his scenario only included Thomas, Crowder, and a future pick – left out Zizic – so sue me, but that’s pretty damned good predicting, folks!

In no general order, some thoughts on the trade, impact, what ifs and the ultimate outcomes:

The David Griffin factor

Does this trade happen if David Griffin gets an extended contract with the Cavaliers? Certainly Kyrie had periods of both “off the record” discontent and open acknowledgement of unhappiness with his situation with the Cavs (particularly pre-Lebron return talent levels and team direction.) How much of Griffin’s departure goes into the lack of open commitment discussion about the King’s opt out?  Wake up if you aren’t aware of the general commentary in social media and traditional media about staying home versus departing for LA. Last night in one hour or so of intermittent viewing, six different ESPN reporters commenters took positions that his departure was a done deal. I saw one mention that it wasn’t “a done deal” whether he leaves or not.

Griffin was part of the family and developed relationships within the team. What impact did the void of his departure have on this trade occurring, the public nature of the trade demand and the conversations regarding LeBron James opting out for LA? If Griffin remains does ANY of this happen?

Should I stay or should I go?

Total transparency: I love LeBron. I think he is everything that a leader should be and takes it on the chin for being that leader, that person, that man. Class. Business man supreme. Role model. I don’t know shit about his personal circumstances, but that guy looks like a great parent to me. Commitment to community. Greatest basketball player ever IMO.

For completely selfish reasons, as a loyal Cavs fan – I want him to stay. As a LeBron fan, I want him to do what is best for him, his family, his business interests and his NBA legacy.

You gotta do what you gotta do. LeBron, the decision, part II, looms in the not too distant future.

Kyrie

I also love Kyrie. I think he is an extremely talented, creative ballin’ mofo. One of the greatest finishers for his size – ever; some would say he is the best. If any 6 foot-ish finishers are better than him, it’s a short list and would have to include “Practice” Iverson. Cold blooded in the clutch. Realistically we have just seen the tip of the iceberg as to the player Kyrie can be.

Some say to reach ultimate personal potential as a player – you have to have your own team, that is, be the man. This is what plainly played in Kyrie’s mind, or at least it has been reported as such. Well, if that was the motivation – then this trade falls into the category of watch what you wish for, Kyrie.

LeBron is not there as a fall back position. Kyrie, you are the Celtic “fall back” position.

Because, Kyrie now you’ve got that moniker and the pressure of responsibility that comes with being the man. Also, that responsibility comes with all the negatives that go with expectation of the city of Boston. Boston is a great sports city, arguably home of the pre-eminent NBA franchise and host to perhaps the most knowledgeable (and sometimes critical) basketball fans in the league.

Celtics fan expect you to participate, embrace and exemplify Celtic pride. Just being great and winning aren’t necessarily the most important elements in Celtic pride and player expectation. Grit, taking a swing and facing potential destruction (I exaggerate – but point out Ainge taking on Tree Rollins and the LOVE that garnered) from an opponent, taking a charge and in general, showing toughness are EXPECTED. I’m not certain that previous displays of disinterest and lack of effort I’ve personally seen from Kyrie in the past will be well received in his new locale.

Good luck with that. I’m not predicting problems, nor am I saying that Kyrie is not ready for the onus of being the man. He has demonstrated the ability to take a team on his back, bury the championship winning shot, and get buckets when an offense bogs down. Those aren’t the only things expected of him now. His defense, particularly his effort, is reprehensible for a player of his talents and at times he just doesn’t seem to care about how it looks when he gets beat on the back dolor cut. His entire demeanor on the court doesn’t always portray “good body language.” Can he be a voice of leadership “in the press,” but more importantly in the locker room, on the court during games, during practice and on the road? Well only time will tell.

I’m rooting for him to become that guy – if for no other reason than apparently it is what he wants. Good for him – I hope he gets there.

He better or he will face the wrath of Celtic nation.

Flat earth

Okay, shameless plug for the podcast, “Road Trippin’ with RJ and Channing.” I love this group and the podcast. Question: when does Allie get included in the show name? So in an early episode, Kyrie commented about flat earth conspiracy theorists and may have been “egged on” to admit he believed in the theory. Listen for yourself – he doesn’t commit to it. However, that episode gives great insight into him as a thoughtful, philosophical person. He is a reader and plainly an intelligent guy. To me, he also came across as sensitive. I hope the sensitivity I “heard” is something he can deal with, when criticized under his new level of expectation from fans, the Celtic organization and his teammates.

The “assets

Beyond the assets received for Kyrie in “the Trade” – ultimately this trade will be evaluated on the basis of LeBron opting out to leave or staying with an extension. His Decision, part II, will decide the criteria under which we evaluate the trade ultimately down the road. He leaves – then how good will Zizic become? How good does “unknown player” obtained with the Nets pick become? Those two pieces will ultimately determine the trade value.

If LeBron stays, then let’s arbitrarily say we have four years to decide.

Cavs win the championship of the NBA’s 2017-2018 season – the Cavs won the trade and will have beaten Ainge at the NBA aversion of dominoes, regardless of anything else. We win’ then we win the trade (freaking great grasp of the obvious, Howard Cosell.)

I like the assets ASSUMING Zizic plays in 2018. If he doesn’t play and show potential, then the assets don’t even out. Thomas will be as good a short term replacement for Kyrie as you could possibly hope for – contract and expectations for future contracts aside. His D sucks but then again Kyrie vacillated from lacking effort to being a down right sieve. The Cavs had to hide him too – just as the Celtics did with Isaiah.

Crowder fills a need for the Cavs with his addition of toughness. I like his fit into the trade. Celtic fans might ask him to not let the door hit him in the behind upon his departure due to his shot selection. Shot selection aside, I think he fits and will benefit from effort buckets in a LeBron led fast break. His defensive flexibility and ability to defend the best wing opponent is unquestioned IMO.

The Nets pick. Unprotected? Come on, that is unquestioned. Easily could be the number one pick come next year. I root for ex-OSU star DeAngelo Russell to improve over his time in Lakerland, but will look for an incredible run of consecutive losses. Buckeye pride only goes so far!

Now if the Cavs don’t win this year and LeBron leaves – Zizic and the “unknown player” from the Nets pick both, and I mean BOTH, better be the next best thing since the iPhone or the Cavs will have failed in this trade.

What’s most interesting about this trade?

Upon seeing the news, I immediately began texting a buddy involved in local media about the trade. He pointed out that even if the Cavs liked the Celtics offer “best” they had to consider that they were loading up the Eastern Conference’s second best team. The team that now stands most prominent in the Cavaliers path to championship number two and revenge. With the uncertainty of LeBron’s departure, should this be his last season – you have to credit the Cavs for going all in.

Make no bones about it; Kyrie makes the Celtics realistic championship contenders. They can win if Kyrie even incrementally improves his performance and becomes the necessary leader as the Man. Vegas odds (as of today) haven’t changed yet – let’s give it some time for money to roll in.

The Celtics at 15 to 1. You have to like those odds as the third favored team (behind the Warriors and any team with the King included in a roster.) I’m just saying.

Legacy

What is the legacy of this trade? Obviously with legacies, past, present and future are included. Kyrie’s legacy is undetermined. I hope that he remains healthy and that health has no impact on the outcome here. Kyrie’s health is the only risk Ainge took in providing so many assets.

Ultimately the trade has now put a pressure on Kyrie that he never would have faced if he stayed in Cleveland. Even if LeBron left and Kyrie chose to stay, he would have been in the same position as the Man. The circumstances being different would have resulted in lessened expectations and the pressures that go along with the expectations.

Kyrie’s path was altered by request and his legacy is plainly yet to be determined. The city of Boston awaits. I wish him well – until that opening tip against my guys. His immediate legacy is the pressure of increased expectations and all that comes along in the backwash of his new role.

LeBron’s legacy is mostly determined and on a path that will extend long beyond his time as a player. I see LeBron’s legacy as his near future plans as a player and long term “global” business interests merge along with his noted interest in potentially changing society for the better – Lord knows we need some positivity in our society today. For me his legacy as a player was fulfilled bringing the trophy home to Cleveland.

His legacy for me is a memory I will never forget. Austin Carr waited all night for his chance to interview him for local television. Following “the block,” “the shot” and “the D” that brought the title home, Austin gets out, “Champ” something about it being “a long time” and never formulates a proper question before spurting “Goddamn,” then sharing a tearful embrace with the King.

Can’t ever take that scene away from LeBron, AC, the city of Cleveland or me. Now that’s a legacy.

Here’s something for you

And I close with this thought, the pressure on LeBron is lessened by this trade. I’m confident that LeBron’s plan is set, long term with built in flexibility to evaluate the conditions that are imbedded in his decision making process. He has so many factors that are important in his life. Who can speculate what will determine his choice? You can speculate. I won’t.

I do state this opinion. This trade demand from Kyrie and the execution of the trade will be taken as a challenge by the King. Regardless of his decision (to repeat – he already knows what his plan is and will act upon it in all due time) and the impact that will have, the pressure to get back to the Finals and beat the Warriors is now off of him, slightly, ever so slightly.

I can’t wait for opening night. My guess is October 17th’s Cavs – Celtics matchup will draw some viewers to the game and make StubHub some coin.

Mark your calendars for that one.

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