LeBron James knew Isaiah Thomas was hurt when the Cavaliers traded for him, but when he learned the full extent of his injury he reportedly “cooled” on trading for the 2016-17 MVP candidate.
According to The Ringer, James and Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue were less than thrilled after learning Thomas may not be ready for the start of the season, and they were even less excited when hearing reports that he might not be ready until after the All-Star break.
That is why the Cavaliers dragged their feet for nine days waiting to finalize the deal with the Celtics for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2020. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert worried about how the trade is going to be viewed both externally and internally.
There is more speculation that the Cavaliers fully knew the extent of the Thomas injury before having the diminuitive guard in for his physical and that is why they were able to get two players and two draft picks in addition to an All-Star guard. Had Thomas been healthy there is a possibility the trade could have been a one-for-one deal.
If Thomas is healthy in the long run then the Cavaliers will be the definitive winners of this trade, but if he’s not, Gilbert and GM Koby Altman felt comfortable with the package they got apart from Thomas regardless of how James and Lue perceived it.
While Gilbert wants to do all that is possible to look as good as he can in this deal, multiple people are reporting that he is operating under the assumption that James will leave in free agency after the 2018 season. It’s an odd dynamic. He is both trying to keep James with this trade, but also trying to prepare for him leaving at the same time.