BOSTON — Celtics coach Brad Stevens confirmed Sunday that Isaiah Thomas plans to play in Game 1 of their first-round NBA Playoffs series against the Chicago Bulls. Thomas started for the Celtics, to a thunderous ovation from the Garden crowd.
“He's really struggling right now,” Stevens said in his pre-game press conference. “There’s really no right or wrong answer. It’s whatever’s right for him.
“Whatever his emotions are at the time, he needs to let them out. As he goes through it, if he feels like he needs to not, whatever he wants.
“I don’t know if there is a script for this,” Stevens continued. “I don’t know if there is a script for the emotions you are supposed to show.”
Stevens reportedly visited Thomas at his home Saturday to console the Celtics All-Star after learning the news that his 22-year-old younger sister Chyna Thomas died in a one-car accident Saturday morning in their home state of Washington.
“This particular situation with his family takes precedent over everything else that is going on,” Stevens said. “Isaiah’s a great teammate. Isaiah’s a great husband. He’s a great father. He’s a great guy, great son and brother.
“My job is to be there with the rest of the guys to support Isaiah.”
When asked about the comfort of starting the series in Boston for Thomas, Stevens discussed the reaction he has witnessed Easter morning.
“I don’t think there is any question people around here have an affinity for [Isaiah]. You can feel that they rally around him,” Stevens said. “As I was at church this morning, I could feel people coming up to me and wanting to see how he is doing.”
Gerald Green, always one of Thomas’ closest teammates, spoke with tears in his eyes before the game.
“He's one of my closest friends and it’s definitely going to motivate me to get through this postseason. I’m playing this postseason for him and I everything that I do, I’m laying it all on the line for him. Because I know that he’s here today in a tough time.
“A lot of guys probably wouldn’t have even done that. It just shows you what type of man he is.”
Thomas earned respect and love from his opponent as well.
“He’s such a great kid and he’s one of the great competitors we have in our league,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s such a good kid and it’s just awful what happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with him at this time.”
“It’s going to be emotional for him,” Dwyane Wade said. “As opponents, we have to go out and try to compete with our gameplay against a great player. As brothers in this game, our hearts go out.”
Thomas and the Celtics will tip off at 6:30 on Easter Sunday.