Remember When LeBron Didn’t Celebrate With Isaiah Thomas After Hitting Game Winner? There Was a Reason For That

ESPN did a big story on why Isaiah Thomas’ tenure with the Cavs failed.

Like a lot of things with the Cavs it goes back to LeBron. Here are the details.

Eight months later, James made a breathtaking buzzer-beater to win an overtime game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Thomas, now his teammate, was one of the first people to reach James to celebrate. James ignored him, practically turning his back as he embraced others.

Thomas had played a hopeful game that night, showing a pass-first approach and having the fewest shot attempts and the second-most assists in his brief Cavs career. He was thrashing around, trying to learn to play on the fly with James while rehabbing from the worst injury of his career.

But James knew something Thomas didn’t — that the Cavs intended to trade Thomas the next day — and his cold response made it clear. And the feelings were never as warm as they had been when Thomas was a defeated playoff combatant. It was a symbolic moment that bookended a bizarre and unpleasant few months for the two men.

As he showed last year, James had respect for Thomas and his battle back from a hip injury. But James was skeptical from the start. The injury itself was worrisome. James’ agent also represented Jonny Flynn, a small guard who had his promising career derailed by hip injuries.

It’s well known that James preferred the Cavs not trade Irving, but there was more. Sources close to James, a master of applying leverage, said he was less than impressed by how the Cavs handled reworking the Irving deal once the severity of Thomas’ injury became clear.

Had the Cavs backed out, which they considered doing for several days, the Celtics would have been in a tough position. They had already celebrated Irving’s arrival and would have alienated Thomas and Jae Crowder. Adding to the Cavs’ leverage was the nature of Thomas’ hip injury becoming public, thereby further diminishing his trade value and putting Boston in an even tighter spot if the deal fell through.

When the dust settled, the fact that Cleveland got only a second-round pick after pausing the deal — and not an additional first-rounder or young player such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Terry Rozier — didn’t just disappoint James as a basketball player. It disappointed him as a businessman.

Flip the page of LeBron not celebrating with IT.

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