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In the event anyone missed it. the Cavaliers front office just pulled an in-season, Danny-Ainge-like house cleaning. They traded away six members of their roster, two of which were Celtics starters last season. Gone are Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye. Their new additions include George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr.

Their moves said as much about the expertise of Celtics boss Danny Ainge and the talent-boosting nature of the Celtics organization as it does about Cleveland trying to hold onto Lebron James past this season. Isaiah and Jae simply never lived up to their billings once they joined the Cavaliers, and they are gone. Kyrie Irving, acquired by Boston in a trade for Thomas and Crowder, has thrived with the Celtics and has become virtually irreplaceable.

The Cavaliers' moves have implications for the entire League. They enhance Cleveland's chances in the race to the playoffs, albeit only somewhat, while also making a case for Lebron to remain with the team after this season. If James chooses to depart, the Cavaliers have picked up some youth with future potential that will help long-term. Meanwhile, the Lakers have opened up some cap room with which to sign a star free agent or two this summer or next. One of those stars could possibly be The King himself. Talk about League drama.


Now for a bit more drama. What did Danny Ainge do at the deadline? Nothing! He made some vain attempts, but nothing materialized. But something very important just might happen, and it is comforting to know that I am not totally alone thinking Gordon Hayward has a significant chance of returning prior to the playoffs. The Boston Globe's Chad Finn agrees:

This year, they’re in first place despite losing Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of the first game of the season. I’m among those who look at the calendar, notice it’s still a long way until June, and believe Hayward will play more than a single game as a Celtic before this season is done.

Another non-trade happening will be the return of Marcus Smart from an inane, self-inflicted injury. If Ainge felt Marcus was a hopeless case, he would be gone. Smart could still be involved in a sign-and-trade this summer, but right now he will be in the thick of it as Boston fights to retain home-court advantage in the East. If Marcus controls the anger and shot selection, he will be vital in the playoff run. Here is the Boston Globe's Chad Finn on Smart's return and Terry Rozier's emergence:

The Celtics are a true contender, at least in the East, as currently constructed. They’re probably the favorite, though sleeping on the tough Raptors is a bad idea. But Terry Rozier’s emergence as an increasingly dynamic offensive player suggests the need for bench scoring might be settled from within.

And dealing Marcus Smart — the current Celtic whose named popped up in the most rumors — would have been a bad idea. Yes, he’s a current doghouse dweller after he went all Billy Martin-vs.-marshmallow-salesman on a picture frame at the team hotel in Los Angeles.

But he is a uniquely ferocious defensive player whose problems typically stem from caring too much. You want him on your side, especially if the Celtics are fortunate enough to close the season with four to seven games against the Warriors.

Finn's comment about Marcus "caring too much" is right on. When Marcus thinks he has failed in some way, he takes it out on himself and sometimes any inanimate object nearby. He is very intense. When miscues happen, he needs to just move on. Terry has used Smart's downtime to step forward as an offensive threat. Hopefully, that will continue.

So Cleveland made some very good moves. Boston made none, which may have been the best route. And the Lakers are setting themselves up to become dominant, or at least relevant, again. Buyout's will be dropping like flies in the next couple weeks from the tanking teams, and the potential playoff teams will be perched waiting for the right one. A lot of drama, and the Celtics are right in the middle of it.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Tom Lane 2/10/2018 07:24:00 AM Edit
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