On Basketball: Kyrie gets a new address, but Cavs win trade

FILE – In this June 7, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) is guarded by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Cleveland. Irving gets his new address and Isaiah Thomas gets to play with LeBron. They both can say they won in this Celtics-Cavs blockbuster deal. But the sum of the parts says Cleveland got the better of Boston in this swap of All-Star point guards. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

MIAMI (AP) — It’s not the principals that will define the blockbuster trade between Cleveland and Boston. Great point guard leaves one city for another. That seems fair.

All the other parts, they will tell the story.

There are many ways to claim victory in the deal made Tuesday night . Kyrie Irving wanted his own team and got it, so he wins. Isaiah Thomas gets to play with LeBron James, so he wins. The Cavaliers got rid of a supposedly disgruntled star, so they won. The Celtics now won’t have to decide if Thomas is worth something like a $180 million deal next summer, so they won. It’s all semantics.

But look past all that.

In the end, Cleveland won. James won, too.

Here’s a few reasons why James will be celebrating this deal: He’ll still have a high-octane point guard; he’s getting an absurdly good defender in Jae Crowder (he could have helped the Cavs’ cause against Golden State in The Finals); he won’t be going into the season dealing with drama about Irving’s Cleveland future; this trade might even reap the Cavaliers the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.

All good things, all edge to Cleveland.

Give the Celtics credit for being bold. Danny Ainge knew winning the Eastern Conference’s regular-season crown last season was meaningless, so he completely blew up a team that was a No. 1 seed and got hammered by the Cavaliers in the East finals. Sure, the Celtics played most of that series without Thomas, but that wasn’t going to matter. The Cavs weren’t losing that series.

So Ainge goes out and gets an All-Star point guard in Irving, after he hauls in Gordon Hayward during free agency and adds probable rookie of the year front-runner Jayson Tatum to the mix in the draft — plus gets another draft pick in either 2018 or 2019 for his trouble.

It’s not a bad deal for the Celtics. They get Irving. It’s his team. A storied franchise is in his hands and he will savor that.

It’s just a better deal for Cleveland, at least right now.

Minnesota never offered Andrew Wiggins. Miami never offered half its roster. Portland wasn’t giving up Damian Lillard. In the end the Cavs still got a star for a star, and since Thomas is only making about $6.3 million next season they got plenty of bonus parts as well to make the trade work.

It also solved one big Cleveland problem.

James’ only motivation is rings, and this move gives him just that.

He will be looking to go to the Finals for the eighth consecutive year. Only three teams in NBA history have been to four straight finals — the Lakers, the Celtics, and the Miami Heat when James was with them. Golden State will be heavy favorites to join that club next June. The Cavaliers won’t surprise many if they join them.

James will show up at camp in a couple of months and begin plotting ways to get his team back to the Finals. Had Irving still been there, James surely would have been wondering if they could make it work again. With Thomas, there won’t be a question. James and Thomas already have great respect for one another, and Thomas runs on the same prove-people-wrong gasoline that James uses.

Cleveland has been through the free-agency-is-looming dance with James before, of course. If the Cavs want to keep him next summer, they simply have to go all-in to make him as happy as possible. This trade probably wasn’t a bad start on that front.

In Boston, the Celtics will look very different this season.

Irving and Hayward are in; Thomas, Crowder, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson are out — meaning five of Boston’s seven top scorers from a No. 1 seed now play elsewhere.

The Cavs weren’t overhauled; Irving is gone, Thomas, Derrick Rose and Jeff Green arrived.

From a continuity standpoint, obvious edge to Cleveland as well.

Regardless of all these Celtics-Cavaliers fireworks, it’s still Golden State’s world and probably will be for a long time. This deal didn’t change that.

The Warriors will still be the favorites to win the last game of next season.

The first game of next season, as luck would have it, just happens to be Boston at Cleveland.

And just like that, the NBA has drama again.

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Bengals LB Burfict suspended 5 games for egregious hit

Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict, top, celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass by Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and scoring a touchdown in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
 
CINCINNATI (AP) — Linebacker Vontaze Burfict missed the first three games last season because of his hit to Antonio Brown’s head in the playoffs. He’ll miss the first five this season thanks to another rattling hit, this time during a preseason game.The NFL has suspended the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive leader for leveling a Chiefs running back in violation of its player safety rules, the latest in Burfict’s history of egregious hits that have drawn fines and suspensions.

Burfict hit running back Anthony Sherman in the chest this month during a pass play in which he was not the intended receiver, knocking him to the ground. The NFL has been cracking down on such hits as part of its emphasis on player safety.

Burfict was suspended for his hit to Antonio Brown’s head on an incomplete pass during a first-round playoff game in the 2015 season. The resulting personal foul moved the Steelers into field goal range in the closing seconds for an 18-16 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals were off on Monday after returning from a preseason game in Washington. They released a statement defending Burfict in the face of his latest punishment.

“The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest,” the statement said.

A player doesn’t have to draw a penalty to be fined or suspended by the league, which has cracked down on dangerous hits as part of its effort to protect defenseless players. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy pointed out in an email to The Associated Press that the league’s rulebook bans “unnecessary contact” against players who aren’t in position to defend themselves.

Also, the rules prohibit “unnecessary roughness” against a player who isn’t involved in a play. Sherman was coming out of the backfield but had his back to the quarterback and wasn’t the intended receiver when Burfict leveled him — the pass went down the field.

Burfict could have easily avoided the hit, which knocked Sherman to the ground. The running back was slow to get up but stayed in the game.

The Bengals will open the season with Burfict and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones suspended. The league suspended Jones one game for his latest arrest and misdemeanor conviction in the offseason.

Burfict and Jones were behind one of the greatest meltdowns in playoff history. Burfict’s hit on Brown moved the Steelers into field goal range, and Jones bumped an official during the ensuing on-field disagreement, drawing another penalty that turned it into a 26-yard kick with 14 seconds left.

The meltdown made it five straight seasons that the Bengals reached the playoffs and lost in the opening round, an NFL record. They’re without a playoff win since 1990, the sixth longest streak of postseason futility in league history. They went 6-9-1 last season and failed to reach the playoffs.

Bengals owner Mike Brown and coach Marvin Lewis have staunchly defending Burfict during his six seasons in Cincinnati, even as his fines and suspensions piled up. The team said in its statement that it will support Burfict through his appeals process for the latest penalty.

During the team’s annual preseason media luncheon last month, Brown expressed admiration for not only Jones but Burfict as well.

“He’s had these things that got him suspended on-field,” Brown said of the linebacker. “He has suffered from that. We have, too. We don’t want it. He knows that. He’s grown up, too. He’s a heck of a player, but he has to toe the line and he’s been asked to do that.”

Burfict had an interception return for a touchdown during Cincinnati’s 23-17 preseason loss at Washington on Sunday. He picked off Kirk Cousins’ pass and stiff-armed the quarterback to get into the end zone, then jumped into the stands.

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