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The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly nearing a deal that would swap Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving, each team's star point guards, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The active trade talks were first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical.

Wojnarowski said that Thomas, Jae Crowder and draft picks were involved in the talks and that rookie center Ante Zizic is also likely to be part of a trade. ESPN's Dave McMenamin added that the unprotected 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-round pick will be part of the deal as discussed.

Woj said on ESPN that the Celtics are trying to keep 2017 third overall pick Jayson Tatum out of the deal while negotiating to match over salaries. Both Zizic and Tatum were signed over 30 days ago, so they are eligible to be traded.





If Thomas, Crowder and Zizic comprise most of the deal, then the Cavaliers would significantly reduce their luxury tax bill by nearly $20 million.



Irving met with Cavaliers ownership last month and requested a trade, reportedly giving the front office a list of preferred destinations. Former Cavs GM David Griffin said that the Celtics were on Irving's list.

Wojnarowski reported last week that the Celtics had expressed interest in Irving. He added that the Cavaliers were focused on receiving young talent in exchange for their All-Star point guard, including potentially adding Tatum to the fold.

Thomas has just one year remaining on his deal while Irving is under contract through the 2018-19 season. With Thomas on a team-friendly deal, making less than $7 million next season, the Celtics would have to give up more money than just Thomas to match Irving's $18,868,625 contract for this upcoming season. Crowder's deal would help the two sides come close to matching salaries.

This would also be an opportunity for Danny Ainge to unload one of the Celtics' many draft picks they've acquired. The Hawks own the Cavaliers' 2019 first-round pick with top-10 protection. A deal of this magnitude between teams that are so close in contention is largely unprecedented.

The Celtics and Cavaliers are set to meet on opening night in Cleveland on Oct. 17.

Irving is three years younger than Thomas and is a four-time All-Star to Thomas' two All-Star Game appearances. Irving has now been a part of three NBA Finals teams and has helped lead the Cavs past the Celtics twice in the last three postseasons.

The 25-year-old Cavaliers point guard initially signed a four-year extension before LeBron James rejoined the Cavaliers in July 2014. Irving has often been unhappy playing second fiddle to James and has long been an admirer of Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who helped forced Los Angeles's front office to trade Shaquille O'Neal in 2004 so Bryant could have his own team.

Despite the tension between Irving and James, both of whom can function as primary ball handlers, they combined on one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history, coming back from 3-1 down against the 73-win Warriors in 2016 to win in a shocking Game 7, in which Irving hit the game-winning three-pointer.

Irving has proved to be at his most potent during the postseason. His 42-point performance in Game 4 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals helped sink the Celtics' comeback hopes. The game, which came after Thomas was declared out for the series with a hip injury, showed what Irving could do without James, who dealt with foul trouble for part of Irving's explosive feat.

Thomas, meanwhile, has helped form the current Celtics roster. He helped recruit both Al Horford and Gordon Hayward in the past two offseasons. The 5-foot-9 point guard took a large leap in his second full season in Boston, averaging 28.9 points per game and leading the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. He's become a fan favorite in Boston with his surprise emergence as a star and plucky style on the court.

More to come...


Photos: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images, Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

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Steven Tydings 8/22/2017 06:16:00 PM Edit
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