For NBA fans, writes Niall Gray, this is the off-season that just keeps on giving.

The summer is usually pretty quiet once the draft, summer league and free agency are out of the way, but not this year.

Whether it’s been stars demanding a trade or big front office changes, there’s barely been any time to sit back and take a breath.

And just when we thought things were calming down, out of left field came a blockbuster trade that had everybody sit up and take notice.

With superstar Kyrie Irving wanting to get out of Cleveland, the Celtics brokered a deal that saw them give up Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 1st round draft pick, courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets.

So, let’s take a look at what the Celtics sent to the Cavaliers for Irving.

If you look at it in the simplest terms, the Celtics have just traded the 60th pick in the 2011 draft for the number one choice that year.

In Jae Crowder, Boston gave up a guy who was originally the makeweight in a deal to off-load Rajon Rondo.

As for Ante Zizic, the Celtics traded someone who has not yet played a minute in the NBA and then there’s a draft pick that has no guarantee of being number one next summer.

But of course, that’s not the whole story and the following will hopefully explain why a number of Celtics fans are upset with this trade.

Let’s start with the biggest loss; Isaiah Thomas.

When IT came to Boston, no-one could predict what a key part of the team he would become. Many people – including myself – thought his best role would be that of a sixth man.

But Thomas wasn’t prepared to accept that and it’s what endeared him to the Celtics’ fan-base. He wanted to show he was a legitimate starter and in doing so he won everyone over, especially as he helped the team back to winning ways.

The old saying about Boston is that it’s a blue-collar town and the fans appreciate players who work their butts off every single game.

In Thomas, that’s what they got and another good example was Jae Crowder.

Let’s not kid ourselves; when Crowder came to Boston in a trade, he wasn’t one of the headline players, he was just there to make the numbers work.

But like Thomas, he was a blue-collar guy who worked hard and got his reward by turning himself into both a starter and valuable piece of the rotation.

While I guess the vast majority of Celtics fans will not be concerned by the departure of Ante Zizic, I have to admit I’m a little disappointed to see him go.

Working in EuroLeague last year, I got see a lot of Zizic’s games after he signed for Darussafaka and I liked what he could do. True, he did have a sub-par Summer League but I still think he’s got an NBA future and with the Celtics in dire need of rebounding, he could have been a useful role player.

Only in hindsight will we see how useful he could have been and that’s the same for the draft pick that the Celtics gave up.

There’s no guarantee that pick will end up as a number one choice and even then, as we saw this summer, when Boston gets the top prize they might not want it!

That lovely word hindsight will only tell us whether this was another great trade by Danny Ainge or if he just helped the Cavs to another title, so let’s wait a while as there are a lot of unknowns going forward.

Isaiah Thomas is due a huge pay-day next summer and boy, has he earned it. The Celtics lucked out with his current deal but know IT is going to be after a max contract.

I wonder if Ainge felt Thomas had reached his peak and therefore it would be too much of a price to pay.

Then there’s chemistry. I would guess a team with IT and Lebron James on it is going to be a lot of fun to watch, but until they take to the court together, we just don’t know how it will work out.

Remember, Thomas has been the Celtics’ leader for the last couple of seasons but now he steps into Kyrie Irving’s shoes and has to fall in behind Lebron. Could that cause some friction?

How will Irving do in Boston? It’s exciting to think of a Celtics’ core that features him, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, but again we don’t know how it’s going to pan out.

Another important factor that I must mention and it’s one I repeat so often I might as well cut-and-paste it in the future to save time.

If there’s any General Manager who can pull off a trade that no-one saw coming, it’s Danny Ainge.

Time and time and time again he’s done it and while some Celtics fans are left bemused by his wheeling and dealing, remember this.

Ainge is doing whatever he can to return the Celtics to glory and in order to do so, deals have to be made and who’s to say he’s not done dealing yet.

For a franchise like the Boston Celtics, the only thing that matters is winning the NBA Championship.

That means you will have to occasionally say goodbye to players you like, but that’s just the way it is.

So, to fellow Celtics fans, especially those keenly anticipating their visit to London to face the Philadelphia 76ers next January, if you’re upset at losing the likes of Thomas and Crowder, that’s fine.

They epitomised what being a Celtic is all about and it will be hard seeing them in a Cavaliers jersey.

I am grateful for everything they did at the Celtics and will miss them, but what’s done is done.

As you might have guessed already, I’m going to give this trade a while to sink in.

Unlike the Kevin Garnett blockbuster deal a decade ago, we might not know the true winners from this deal for perhaps a year or two.

We live in an age of instant social media reaction, but I think on this occasion it would be foolish to rush to a judgement. Let’s wait and see what happens down the line.

I’ll finish this up by sharing one thought that has been kicking around in my head since the story first broke.

Given how many changes there have been on the Celtics’ roster this off-season, I keep picturing a scene of the players turning up to the first day of training camp all wearing giant, “MY NAME IS…” stickers!

I jest, but it does bring up a serious point. As we all know, the pre-season is now shorter than it used to be so the Celtics will need to get to know each other very quickly, especially considering the first game of the new season will be in Cleveland.

My advice to fellow European-based fans; book the 18th October off work and make sure you’re up watching that game in the early hours.

Doesn’t matter which NBA team you support, it’s not one you’ll want to miss.


Pic: NBAE/Getty

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