NEW YORK • The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics, two teams already primed to contend for supremacy in the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Eastern Conference, agreed on Tuesday to one of the biggest deals of a frantic off-season when they swopped All-Star point guards.
The Cavaliers sent Kyrie Irving, one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league, to the Celtics in exchange for a hefty package headlined by Isaiah Thomas, a two-time All-Star.
In exchange for Irving, Boston also agreed to send forward Jae Crowder, centre Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft pick to Cleveland.
And as if the deal itself was not intriguing enough, the Celtics and the Cavaliers are scheduled to face each other in Cleveland to open the NBA season on Oct 17.
It was a seismic trade in a busy summer for the NBA, which saw a raft of stars relocate to new teams. Among them was Gordon Hayward, an All-Star forward who left the Utah Jazz as a free agent last month to sign a lucrative contract with the Celtics, who have reshaped their roster after finishing with the top record in the conference last season.
Irving, a four-time All-Star, has three years and US$60.3 million (S$82.15 million) remaining on his contract, which includes a player option for the final season.
"For all he's accomplished, we think his best years are ahead of him," Boston's basketball operations president Danny Ainge said.
The Cavaliers made the most of a challenging situation. Irving, 25, averaged 25.2 points, 5.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds a game last season and helped the Cavaliers make their third straight appearance in the NBA finals, which they lost to the Golden State Warriors.
But he approached the team last month to ask for a trade - in part so he could escape LeBron James' colossal shadow in Cleveland.
Koby Altman, the Cavaliers' newly appointed general manager, honoured Irving's surprising request and came away with a significant haul.
Thomas emerged as a bona fide star for the Celtics last season, averaging a career-high 28.9 points and 5.9 assists while shooting 46.3 per cent from the field before a hip injury marred his participation in the play-offs.
By trading him now, Boston was able to land a franchise-altering talent in Irving - a player who got the fresh start that he wanted. The rest is up to him.
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE