Trading Isaiah Thomas was never going to be easy. But in the eyes of Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, it was something that he and the rest of the team’s brass and ownership clearly felt was necessary in order to improve their team.
Right or wrong, love it or hate it, it happened. And now that the dust has (kind of?) settled, the ever outspoken All-Star point guard told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins—and the rest of the world—how he feels about the man who sent him away from the team and city he grew to love.
“I might never talk to Danny again. That might not happen. I’ll talk to everybody else. But what he did, knowing everything I went through, you don’t do that, bro. That’s not right. I’m not saying eff you. But every team in this situation comes out a year or two later and says, ‘We made a mistake.’ That’s what they’ll say, too.”
Having given everything he had to the organization—especially this past postseason when he played through a torn labrum in his hip as well as through the grief of losing his younger sister—it’s hard to blame Thomas for having any sort of animosity towards Ainge.
Even Ainge himself gets it.
“That’s the hard part of the job,” Ainge said Wednesday while speaking to the media at the Shamrock Foundation charity golf tournament. “I know that there are a lot of feelings that go on when these types of things happen. I was a player that was traded twice so I understand his sentiments but you guys know how much I love Isaiah. He’s a great kid and I wish him the best.”
“He was a great Celtic and I think everybody that watched him play and has been with him in the locker room the last few years will always remember how great he was. He’ll be a part of Celtic history forever.”
To Thomas, Ainge’s words will probably ring hollow—at least for the time being. But, as the saying goes, time heals all wounds, and while Ainge isn’t sure it will happen any time soon, he’s more than open to talking with IT again if and when the opportunity arises.
“I would try to [talk to him], but I have no idea,” Ainge said. “That takes two people. He obviously said some things today. He has some strong feelings, strong emotions and I understand them. I think there’s just feelings there. There’s emotions. I think everybody understands it.”
In the eyes of some, this particular trade has morphed “Trader Danny” into “Traitor Danny,” and it’s opened up the debate on loyalty in the NBA and what the difference is between a player leaving in free agency versus being traded.
Make no mistake though, Ainge shouldn’t be demonized for making this move. As he said it’s part of the job and his job is to put together the best combination of talent he possibly can in search of the franchise’s next championship. It’s not personal; it’s business. For as long as he’s been in charge, Ainge hasn’t been the judge, jury, and executioner. There’s more to him making a trade than just saying, “deal.” He doesn’t act alone.
Of course, knowing that doesn’t make it hurt any less for the people who were pro-IT over Kyrie Irving, but those people will get over it. Thomas will get over it. Everyone will move on.
Remember: it stung when Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but we got over it. And while Thomas will certainly be missed around here, it’s hard to think all parties involved will hold a grudge forever.