According to The Athletic's Jason Lloyd (h/t Yahoo Sports' Ben Rohrbach), the Cavs player called Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge a "f--king thief" this winter in reference to the deal. The C's acquired Irving in August in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick in 2018 and a 2020 second-rounder.
With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to criticize Cleveland's return from the Irving deal. But it's hard to imagine how it could've done much better at the time.
Thomas had finished fifth in voting for the NBA Most Valuable Player in 2017 and had averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game. He was, however, recovering from a hip injury, which raised doubt at the time about whether he could continue to be an All-Star point guard.
Still, Crowder was seemingly the kind of perimeter defender the Cavs needed to counteract Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, while the Nets' pick could either be a trade asset or a way to set up a post-LeBron James future.
Compare that to some of the other proposed trades that were floating around last summer.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported there were some who believed the Phoenix Suns could put the best offer on the table if they were prepared to deal Eric Bledsoe and Josh Jackson. Bledsoe's poor play was a big reason the Milwaukee Bucks couldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs this year, while Jackson was a major disappointment in his rookie campaign.
ESPN's Zach Lowe also reported the Bucks discussed a trade that would've seen Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon go to Cleveland. In retrospect, that's probably a better deal than the Celtics' package. But remember, Middleton missed most of the 2016-17 season with a hamstring injury, and Brogdon had a solid if unspectacular rookie year.
The worst-case scenario basically happened for Cleveland. Thomas was a shell of his former self, and Crowder wasn't a great fit. Most importantly, the Nets played well enough to finish with the eighth-worst record in the NBA. At the draft lottery Tuesday night in Chicago, the Cavs got the No. 8 selection, which isn't a great position.
The Cavaliers took down the Warriors and won a championship in 2016, but the Irving trade left the team scrambling to retool the roster.