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Cavs' Gilbert: 'We killed it' with Kyrie Irving trade

The decision to trade Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for a future first-round pick, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic and Jae Crowder was a bonafide win for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

That’s how Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert feels, anyway, a sentiment expressed via The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Wednesday. Citing Irving’s desire to be traded — and his agent alluding to his need for knee surgery if he wasn’t dealt — Gilbert dubbed the Cavs’ escape from the awkward predicament nothing short of a win for the franchise.

“We could have ended up with nothing. Looking back after all the moves [general manager] Koby [Altman] made, we killed it in that trade,” Gilbert said after stating he thinks Irving, an unrestricted free agent this summer, will leave Boston.

“It becomes a melting snowball,” Gilbert said. “We had to trade him when we did. What team would want Kyrie with only one year on his contract knowing he could leave after the season? You won’t get much back (under those circumstances).”

Irving has averaged 24.1 points, 6.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds en route to a pair of All-Star appearances in his two seasons with the Celtics. He missed the 2018 playoffs due to injury, however, before Boston suffered a 4-1 Eastern Conference semifinal defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2019 playoffs.

Cleveland, meanwhile, used the Brooklyn Nets’ pick they acquired in the trade to draft Collin Sexton, who earned All-Rookie Second Team honors this season. Zizic showed promise as the Cavs’ backup center, while Crowder and Thomas were traded again just months after Cleveland acquired them.