CLEVELAND — Just when it appeared the Cavaliers’ chaotic summer had calmed, there’s a flare-up. That blockbuster deal between Cleveland and Boston is stuck.
The Cavaliers have some concerns about guard Isaiah Thomas’ health and are doing a “deep and thorough” review of the deal that brought him over from the Celtics, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the Cavaliers rocked the NBA by honoring All-Star guard Kyrie Irving’s trade request and dealing him to the Celtics — one of their biggest rivals — for Thomas and a lucrative package that included an unprotected 2018 first-round draft pick. The two people said the trade has not been completed and the Cavs are continuing to do a medical evaluation on Thomas, who injured his right hip last season and had to drop out of the Eastern Conference finals against Cleveland. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team is not publicly discussing its plans.
After Irving demanded to be traded in July, the Cavaliers entertained numerous offers before striking a deal with Boston. In exchange for Irving, the Celtics agreed to send Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and the first-round pick they acquired from the Brooklyn Nets to Cleveland.
ESPN reported Friday night that the Cavaliers are “considering possible ramifications” after Thomas took his physical. According to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, a trade can be voided if a player fails his physical.
The Cavaliers and Celtics have until Wednesday to finalize the trade, pending the completion of physicals. It’s common practice for teams to perform comprehensive medical exams on players with prior medical issues, and the Cavs were well aware of Thomas’ history.
If Cleveland isn’t satisfied with its findings on Thomas, the club could scrap the trade. That seems unlikely, however, because the three-time defending conference champions were determined to deal Irving before training camp, and the Cavaliers coveted a high draft pick they can use to acquire another star next season or select a top-tier talent in the draft. The Cavs could also request the Celtics alter the trade by giving them another player or pick.
This is all new ground for general manager Koby Altman, who has only been on the job full-time since mid-July. He was promoted after former GM David Griffin left the team not long after Cleveland’s loss to Golden State in the Finals. The 34-year-old Altman has inherited a talented team, but also one that has had a tumultuous few months and could potentially lose superstar LeBron James next summer if the game’s best all-around player decides to opt out of his contract and hit the free-agent market. James left Cleveland in 2010 to play in Miami, where he won two titles.
In the short term, Altman’s main concern is completing the deal for Thomas, who has blossomed into one of the league’s premiere playmakers in the past few seasons. The 28-year-old, who endeared himself to fans in Boston and across the country by playing in the postseason following his sister’s death, has been rehabbing the hip he initially hurt in March. Thomas aggravated it in the second round against Washington and finally limped off the floor in Game 2 of the conference finals, which Cleveland won in five games.
Thomas consulted with specialists before it was decided he did not need surgery. The Cavs were well aware of Thomas’ condition before the trade and were prepared to have their doctors examine him — as they would for any trade. As is usual, the Cavaliers and Celtics conducted a conference call with the league office on Tuesday night before announcing a trade that ratcheted up what has been a dramatic offseason around the league with major free-agent signings, monster contracts and trades. And it’s not over.