Cavs, Celtics have undergone major changes
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.