Isaiah Thomas wasn’t supposed to be here. You’ve heard the story about being the last pick in the draft, the size, and all the lofty expectations. But after learning about the death of his sister a day before the beginning of the playoffs, he really wasn’t supposed to be here. Who could blame him? The guard just had one of the most electrifying seasons in the league and lead his team to a best-in-the-East 53 wins. But here he was, despite it all, putting this team and city above everything else.
This Saturday we got the news that Isaiah Thomas will be ruled out for the rest of the postseason after the re-aggravation of the right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear. To put that in perspective, Thomas was dealing with a lingering hip injury since March 15th, he was forced to wear fake teeth after losing them in game 1 of the semifinals, and he was grieving the loss of sister. Yet he found a way to average 23.3 ppg, 6.7 apg, 3.1 rpg, and gave us one of the greatest playoff performances in Celtics history:
It’s hard to remember now, but Thomas’s rise is very recent. In the beginning of last season the team still widely considered Thomas a spark plug off the bench, while the team opted to try out a more defensive-heavy, Smart-Bradley backcourt. Before Christmas it was already clear that Isaiah Thomas could no longer be a 6th man anymore, and the broad-shouldered guard lifted his team to a 48-win season before falling to the Atlanta Hawks in a tight six-game series. While most players would have went off in the sunset after a breakout season, Thomas put on his recruiting hat and capitalized on a connection he made with long-time Hawk Al Horford, becoming a key force in convincing him to leave the only team he ever played for to join a young, up-and-coming Celtics team who he just beat in the postseason.
It wasn’t always great. As Thomas’s offense soared, some groaned that he was giving up just as many points on the other end. The combination may not have devastating effects in the regular season, “but wait till the playoffs,” critics proclaimed. Don’t get me wrong, his inability to guard at a high-level will always be a weakness. But this year showed that despite those weaknesses, the team can still win in the postseason when he’s surrounded by defensive-minded players. As much as the old cliche of “defense wins championships” still has a place, you can’t win games without scoring more points than the other team, and Thomas was so great at it that even his limitations couldn’t stop his positive impact on the team.
Though Thomas’s season is ending on a low note, his heart and willpower throughout the playoffs cemented himself amongst the hierarchy of the league. So from Mr. Irrelevant to MVP chants, let’s all give a hand to “The King in the Fourth,” Mr. Isaiah Thomas. Celtics basketball will forever be in your court.