BOSTON – As the Phoenix Suns visit the Celtics for the first time since they traded Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics at the trade deadline, coach Brad Stevens reflected on the hectic events surrounding the acquisition.
"I don’t remember it great because I was preparing for the next game and I was actually getting ready for a team meeting right at the deadline," Stevens said when asked about the events leading up to the Thomas trade.
"Then I got a call from Danny [Ainge] probably ten minutes before the deadline and he said, ‘It doesn’t look like we’re gonna do anything.’ I got a call eight minutes later that said, ‘We’ve talked about this real briefly, but what do you think?’ So it was an obviously unique, quick, last minute thing. So he was either throwing me a curveball or things really did happen at the last minute."
It wasn’t the first time Stevens was consulted before Ainge made a personnel decision. While many GMs used to work unilaterally, Stevens is usually a key source of input for Ainge when trade opportunities arise.
"I mean, [Ainge] does that with all of those things with me," Stevens said after describing Ainge’s calls. "I have an opinion to offer and if he wants to use it, he can use it. But he’s been great about asking my thoughts on things."
After acquiring Thomas without giving up any players, Stevens’ struggling offense was completely overhauled. Thomas became the focal point of an offense that lacked a consistent leader and someone capable of scoring in traffic during crunch time.
But getting him on the floor was not an easy task.
"It was unique and then Isaiah had to fly out [to Boston] while we were on the west coast; he was in Phoenix and had to do his physical," Stevens recalled. "So the first time I talked to him was on Facetime about our playbook. We watched our playbook together on Facetime and then two days later, I met him and I was giving him grief because he didn’t make it to the end of that game.
"So it was kind of a crazy whirlwind there."
Stevens wanted to get on the phone, or rather iSight camera, to get Isaiah in the fold as quickly as possible.
"It just felt like the more that we could communicate sooner rather than later, the better. And, you know, just get into our playbook ASAP."
While Thomas scored more than 20 points in three of his first four games under Stevens, he was mostly running off of feel while Stevens eased him into the point guard role.
"We didn’t run a ton of stuff early on and we really kind of inched into that as the season progressed. Obviously, he was a huge pickup for our team."
Although Thomas has been a great scorer and effective all-around point guard since he arrived in Boston, the past month as the starter has seen him take the clear leap to an All-Star level. Stevens’ input might have been valuable in the minutes going into the trade deadline, but it’s clear to see that the deal was a no-brainer.
No FaceTime required.