Cavs, Celtics have un­der­gone ma­jor changes

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS -

Bos­ton play­off star Jayson Ta­tum and Cleve­land coach Ty­ronn Lue are cousins. The Cava­liers and Celtics might as well be.

The Eastern Con­fer­ence’s top two teams have been in­ter­twined for more than a year from a sum­mer block­buster trade, from open­ing night, from afar. Al­though there were long stretches this sea­son when it seemed at least un­likely, and maybe im­pos­si­ble, that the Celtics and Cavs would reach the con­fer­ence fi­nals, they’re back again and meet­ing in the play­offs for the third time in four years.

The se­ries ev­ery­one wanted. The one few ex­pected to see.

And yet here they are: the odds- de­fy­ing Celtics, guided by baby-faced coach Brad Stevens and pros­per­ing with­out in­jured stars Kyrie Irv­ing and Gordon Hay­ward, ver­sus the Cavs, who de­spite a mas­sive ros­ter makeover in Fe­bru­ary are rolling as 33-year- old LeBron James en­hances his leg­end with ev­ery game.

“There’s been a lot that’s hap­pened through­out the sea­son with us and for them,” Cavs for­ward Kevin Love said Thurs­day as Cleve­land pre­pared for Sun­day’s se­ries opener in Bos­ton. “Both teams have raised their level of play and been through it, but are here now and have to lay it all on the line.”

Af­ter the Cavs beat the Celtics in five games in last year’s con­fer­ence fi­nals to ad­vance to their third straight NBA Fi­nals, there were no hints the two fran­chises would ramp up their ri­valry with a trade that caught their en­tire league, well, of­f­guard.

The Cavs suc­cumbed to Irv­ing’s trade de­mand he was tired of play­ing in James’ shadow and sent the All- Star to Bos­ton for Isa­iah Thomas, a firstround draft pick, for­ward Jae Crow­der and cen­ter Ante Zizic.

Irv­ing and Hay­ward will watch this se­ries from the bench. Thomas is much far­ther away.

He spent the first two months in Cleve­land try­ing to get healthy but wasn’t the same when he came back and never con­nected with his new team­mates. Cavs gen­eral man­ager Koby Alt­man traded Thomas to the Lak­ers for Jor­dan Clark­son and Larry Nance Jr. Alt­man didn’t stop there, deal­ing Crow­der and Derrick Rose to Utah for Rod­ney Hood, send­ing Dwyane Wade back to Mi­ami and ac­quir­ing point guard Ge­orge Hill from Sacra­mento. COL­LI­SON TO RE­TIRE » Ok­la­homa City Thun­der for­ward Nick Col­li­son is re­tir­ing af­ter 15 years in the NBA. The 37-year- old Col­li­son an­nounced his de­ci­sion through the team. The Thun­der said Col­li­son is among five NBA play­ers to have spent the past 15 or more sea­sons all with one fran­chise. The 6-foot10 Col­li­son did not give a rea­son for his re­tire­ment. He played in just 15 games this past sea­son. His best sea­son came in 2007- 08, when he av­er­aged 9.8 points and 9.4 re­bounds in the last year be­fore the Seattle Su­perSon­ics re­lo­cated to Ok­la­homa City.

Col­li­son was se­lected No. 12 over­all out of Kansas by the Seattle Su­person­ics in 2003. HOR­NETS HIRE BOR­REGO » The Hor­nets have of­fi­cially named James Bor­rego as head coach. The 40-yearold Bor­rego joins the Hor­nets af­ter 15 sea­sons as an NBA as­sis­tant coach, in­clud­ing the last three with the San An­to­nio Spurs un­der Gregg Popovich. The Hor­nets have set an in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence for to­day.

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