Danny Ainge recalls difficult post-trade conversation with Isaiah Thomas

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge created fireworks last week in dealing for Kyrie Irving, but it came at a cost.

There was more than enough drama surrounding the blockbuster trade between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers last week.

The deal that sent 4-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn first rounder as well as a 2020 second-round pick had the NBA buzzing.

Finally, Danny Ainge brought another franchise type superstar to Boston.  But, he did so at the expense of one of the most popular athletes in The Hub over the last couple years.

Speaking to CSN following Irving and Gordon Hayward’s introductory press conference on Friday, Ainge recalled how difficult it was for him to inform Thomas that he had been traded.

“It was one of the most difficult conversations I ever had,” Ainge said, via CSN.  “IT, everybody in Boston is grateful for I.T. and all that he’s done.  We wouldn’t be here today with Kyrie and Gordon Hayward and Al Horford if IT didn’t exist.”

On a day in which Ainge and the Celtics organization celebrated a new chapter in the team’s journey to banner No. 18, Ainge recognized how Thomas was a major factor in putting the team back on the map.

The heart of a champion

Not only did the 5-foot-9 lead the Boston Celtics to playoff appearances the last three seasons, but he did it with so much heart and determination.  Both were highlighted in the  2017 NBA playoff run in which Thomas played through the death of his sister and having his tooth knocked out.

When any player plays through that much emotional and physical pain, it is a lock that the fan base is going to garner a connection to that player.  In turn, that player returns that affection.  For those reasons, Ainge’s business decision became the toughest conversation he has had with a player during his tenure as president of basketball operations.

“Those are the really, really hard decisions and a very hard conversation to have with IT,” Ainge recalled.  “IT, as you know, is a very good man, but he’s very emotional as well, and he’ll wear that chip on his shoulder and be out to prove how great he’s going to recover from his injuries and I look forward to that.  It will be the happiest day of my life when I see him make a full recovery and play as great as he did last year for another few years.”

While the trade decision was a difficult one, it is also one of the reasons Danny Ainge is an effective executive in the NBA.  Sure, he has made some bad trades. Overall, however, his ability to make those tough trades by putting the team concept ahead of individual players is what has gotten the Celtics to where they are today.

It would’ve been easy to ride out Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce’s final days in the NBA as Celtics, but that historic trade opened the door for an Isaiah Thomas to find stardom.  It also have Ainge a treasure of draft picks that he is cashing in one piece at a time.