Kyrie Irving's desire to split from the Cleveland Cavaliers was well-documented prior to Tuesday's trade to the Boston Celtics. However, several members of the defending Eastern Conference champions were reportedly interested in trying to smooth things over with the four-time All-Star in order to keep the team's core intact.
On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin reported "multiple Cavs players told ESPN they hoped Irving would remain on the team, believing they could work out their differences like a family and have another crack at beating the [Golden State] Warriors together."
Despite those pleas, McMenamin reported thoughts of keeping him "became unrealistic" because Irving informed Cavaliers brass "that he would rather not report to training camp than begin another season with Cleveland."
Now it's on to the next chapter as Irving aims to prove he can flourish now that he's escaped LeBron James' shadow.
The Cavaliers should also be motivated to show they can succeed sans Irving―and the acquisitions of Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder should allow them to do so.
Not only did Thomas (113.6) and Crowder (112.3) record the top two offensive ratings among all Celtics players who logged at least 500 minutes last season, but Crowder proved to be a robust defender who was never afraid to challenge opponents' top perimeter scorers.
In fact, the rough-and-tumble wing held opposing shooters to a 29.8 percent conversion rate from three when he operated as their primary defender during the 2016-17 regular season.
With Crowder primed to take pressure off James defensively and Thomas a seamless stopgap in the backcourt who can replicate Irving's isolation stylings and get to the free-throw line at one of the league's highest clips, the Cavaliers have the pieces necessary to capture the Eastern Conference crown four years running.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com.