LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge said Kyrie Irving’s blend of youth, championship experience and sheer skill made him worth the ‘‘heavy price’’ of trading away Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder.
Irving, who reached the NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers each of the past three seasons – winning the title alongside superstar LeBron James in 2016 – had let the Cavs know he wanted a change and they obliged on Tuesday with a blockbuster deal that sent the 25-year-old to the Celtics.
In exchange the Cavaliers received crowder and Thomas – the two-time All-Star who won hearts in Boston with a big game that belied his small stature and his determination to pursue his playoff dream even after the sudden death of his sister in a road accident.
‘‘Trading both guys was tough,’’ Ainge said on Wednesday. ‘‘Isaiah had just an amazing season this year, entertained the whole city of Boston and everybody fell in love with him.
‘‘He’s such an underdog because of his size and his heart and the spirit with which he plays. It was very challenging to make this decision.’’
The Celtics also surrendered center Ante Zizic and the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round draft pick.
‘‘It’s extremely rare to be able to trade for a 25-year-old player that’s done what he’s done in his career and the offensive weapon that he is,’’ Ainge said.
‘‘We know we’re paying a heavy price and love the guys that were here and we really didn’t want to give up any of those pieces to make this deal work – but we’re excited to have Kyrie.’’