CLEVELAND >> With the stunning force of a LeBron James dunk, the Cavaliers shattered their roster.
Cleveland completely changed its look — and perhaps its chances of winning an NBA title this season — on Thursday with a stunning sequence of trades before the deadline, a person with direct knowledge of the deals told The Associated Press.
The Cavs began their overhaul by sending disappointing guard Isaiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the teams are awaiting league approval to finalize all the deals. Thomas played in just 15 games as he returned from a hip injury and struggled to fit in, so the Cavs dealt him along with forward Channing Frye and one of their two first-round picks to the Lakers for point guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr.
As the Thomas swap was being digested around the league, the Cavs completed a three-team deal with Utah and Sacramento. The Cavs sent guard Derrick Rose and forward Jae Crowder to the Jazz for forward Rodney Hood. They’ll receive guard George Hill from the Kings in exchange for guard Iman Shumpert.
And if all that wasn’t enough, the Cavs then dealt 36-year-old Dwyane Wade to Miami for a heavily protected second-round pick. It’s a homecoming for Wade, who played 13 seasons in Miami, winning three NBA titles — two of them with James.
James went on Instagram to endorse the move for one of his best friends , posting “truly happy for my brother dwyanewade!! It’s how it’s suppose to be. Love you my guy!! #WadeCountyBack.”
The massive makeover is intended to help the Cavs make another title run in 2018 with James, who can opt out of his contract this summer and become a free agent. The 33-year-old James has said he would like to finish his career in Cleveland and general manager Koby Altman, who has only been in charge of the roster since July, gave James a team he can lead back to the Finals.
The Cavs also protected themselves if they lose James by hanging onto the first-round pick they acquired last summer in the blockbuster trade that sent All-Star Kyrie Irving to Boston for Thomas, Crowder and center Ante Zizic.
ESPN was first to report the dizzying run of deals.
Thomas seemed to sense his strange stay in Cleveland was over.
After James hit a buzzer-beating jumper to beat Minnesota in overtime on Wednesday night, Thomas stood at his locker and wondered if he would be on the move again.
“I’m tired of being traded,” he said. “That’s not a good thing. But I just want to be where I’m wanted. I like it here. It hasn’t been as planned, but I definitely want to be here.”
The Cavaliers, though, had other plans and needed to do something rash while in a prolonged slump and with All-Star forward Kevin Love out with a broken left hand.
Thomas, who turned 29 on Wednesday, wasn’t working out. He missed Cleveland’s first 36 games while coming back from a torn right labrum that knocked him out of last year’s playoffs. The Cavs tried to incorporate him into their offense, but it was forced and bogging them down.
Cleveland is just 7-13 since Christmas Day, and the club’s slide has coincided with Thomas’ comeback. He played better on Wednesday night, scoring 13 points with seven assists in 31 minutes. But he’s a defensive liability on a defensively challenged team and the Cavs felt it was best to move him.
While Thomas struggled on the floor, he didn’t help himself with some peculiar off-the-court comments.
Following Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the 17-win Orlando Magic — the Cavs blew a 21-point lead and scored nine points in the fourth quarter — Thomas questioned whether the team makes enough in-game adjustments.
Those remarks were dismissed by coach Tyronn Lue, who said, “That’s not true.”
Lue tweaked his rotations against the Timberwolves, giving more minutes to rookie Cedi Osman, who provided an infusion of needed energy. Late in the game, Thomas was pulled off the floor by Lue and the guard stood near Cleveland’s bench and shook his head in disappointment.
Hours later, he was gone along with five other players who weren’t doing enough to keep the Cavs among the league’s elite teams.
Hood and Nance will help Cleveland defensively while Hill is a shot maker who will benefit by playing alongside James.