One Cavs player called Celtics' Danny Ainge a 'thief' for the Kyrie Irving trade last offseason

It became pretty clear that the Cavaliers were going to lose the Kyrie Irving trade when Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder -- two big pieces of Irving's return package -- struggled in Cleveland and then were traded at the mid-season deadline. At the time, Irving was tearing it up with the Celtics, who were establishing themselves as one of the Eastern Conference's best teams.

But somehow the trade has only managed to look worse and worse for the Cavaliers over the past couple of weeks. The Cavs have dropped the opening two games of the Eastern Conference finals to the Celtics -- playing impressive team ball and seeing stunning success even without Irving, who will miss the entire postseason with a knee injury.

And while the optics of the deal looked particularly bad on Tuesday night (more on that in a bit), it seems at least one Cavaliers player has been ruthlessly panning the deal for months now. 

In a column published Wednesday, Jason Lloyd of The Athletic recalled a particularly amusing quip that a frustrated an anonymous Cavs player delivered in the aftermath of a loss this winter. 

"Danny Ainge is a f------ thief," he said.

And, while rather vulgar and brazen, it's hard to argue with the unnamed player -- especially given the way things played out on Tuesday night.

LeBron James was lights out as he dropped 42-12-10 in Cleveland's Game 2 loss. Arguably the best player of this generation needed to come up big after a lackluster Game 1 showing, and he did. 

But he couldn't do it all himself. A lack of secondary contributions from the guys around him left him out to dry. He got no help. It was the kind of game that makes you wonder why LeBron would choose to stay in Cleveland and play for that organization when his current deal expires this offseason. 

The guys that the Cavs have as a result of the Irving Deal (Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance and Ante Zizic) have combined for just 23 points through the first two games of the series. Irving, meanwhile, averaged over 25 points per game in the conference finals against the Celtics last year.

Consider this tidbit from Lloyd:

Whenever any of those three [Clarkson, Hood, Nance] have been on the floor in these playoffs, the Cavs have been outscored by 164 points. Making matters worse, Irving ended last year's postseason a plus-124. That's a 288-point differential in the postseason between Irving and the three key figures the Cavs have left to show for him.

To suggest the Cavs wish they could have Irving back, or at least trade him for a different crop of players, is possibly the world's largest understatement.

And, to somehow make matters worse, the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round draft pick that was a key inclusion in the Irving deal only landed the Cavs a No. 8 pick during Tuesday night's lottery.

So, as it stands, the Cavs' return package for Irving is Clarkson, Hood, Nance, Zizic and a No. 8 pick.

Danny Ainge. F-word. Thief.

The Irving trade might ultimately be the single biggest reason why James ditches Cleveland for a second time. If that's not a bitter pill enough to swallow, it could just be one the pillars of an impending Celtics dynasty. I mean, the Celtics could be the first team to knock off a LeBron-led team prior to the NBA Finals for the first time in eight years, and they'd do it with two budding stars at the ages of 20 (Jayson Tatum) and 21 (Jaylen Brown), and without two of their best players (Irving and Gordon Hayward). That's insane.

As a result, Ainge has received glowing praise for his moves, even by key figures on the Cleveland side.

So, yeah. The trade was bad and the Cavaliers should feel bad.

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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