We’re kicking off the offseason by doing a comprehensive Celtics Roster Review article for each player on the Celtics’ roster. These posts are our attempts to take stock of where the team is heading into the summer. Hope you enjoy.
I write about sports. Words come pretty easy to me. I can’t say they are always the most impressive, insightful, or clever words, but they normally flow pretty freely. However, there are some moments and players that leave me speechless. Isaiah Thomas in the 4th quarter is the equivalent of hitting the mute button on my brain.
We weren’t even halfway through the season by the time I ran out of words of praise for Isaiah, but I had to keep on trying. At some point I just started tweeting out one-liners like “Isaiah Thomas is my favorite superhero.”
I don’t know what planet he comes from or what insect bit him to give him the powers he possesses, but what he does on the court defies all reasonable expectations.
Decades of evidence has taught us that the further you stretch up from the floor, the better chance you have of being really good at basketball. There’s a metaphorical sign at the entrance that says “you must be THIS tall to ride.” Yet Thomas just flashes that megawatt smile, darts under the sign, past defenders, through a tangle of arms and legs, and scores again and again and again.
Last season taught us that Thomas could be an All-Star, but there were still whispers that he was a “fake All-Star” or at least a step below the cream of the crop. In other words, he was being doubted again. So he did what he always does when facing questions: he exceeded everyone’s expectations except his own.
We have yet to see the results of the MVP race, but most believe that he’ll be in the top 10 in voting if not the top 5. He also led the team all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals as the focal point and face of the franchise. Not bad for a fake All-Star.
The season is done, his postseason was cut short by injury, and talk has turned to his contract situation. He has been the biggest bargain in the NBA for the past two seasons, but people are already openly wondering if he’ll be worth his next contract. In other words, he’s being doubted once again.
Don’t get me wrong, I get the concerns. Nobody has done what he’s done at his size before. So there’s no telling how long his body can hold up under all the collisions or how his game will age over time. For all his talents offensively, he can be almost as much of a liability on the other end. His likely replacement and/or successor just celebrated his 19th birthday and will be cost controlled for the duration of his rookie contract. These are all valid data points for Danny Ainge and the Celtics to take into consideration.
I don’t think we can ignore the other data points though, like how he’s gotten better every season. Teams have thrown everything at him, and he just keeps leaping tall buildings and outrunning locomotives. Personally, I’m not willing to doubt him any longer. If he thinks that he can keep being one of the 10 best players on the planet and lead this team to championships, I’m inclined to believe him.
Obviously any serious injuries could be the kryptonite that turns him back into a mere mortal. So the recovery of his torn labrum will need to be watched carefully.
It is likely that the Celtics will have a season to see how his body recovers before needing to make a final decision on giving him a max contract. However, there’s a chance that the team will use their cap space to extend him this offseason (which might actually reduce the long-term financial risk for the team).
All I know is that teams search high and low for guys that produce like Isaiah Thomas. Max contracts are flung at players who will never be half the player that Thomas is already. Sure, there are risks to investing heavily in any one player, but that’s the price of the game, and there are ways of mitigating the impact (like say, drafting another future star that will likely be a bargain by the end of his rookie contract).
Regardless of the future, the past two seasons have been a joy to witness, and a great deal of the credit goes to Isaiah Thomas. We’ve seen him grow into a superhero. He’s vanquished foes and gained headlines. Now we’re in that story arc where he’s been knocked down and humbled with an injury. That’s usually just before the hero gets up and wins his most difficult battle.
I can’t wait to turn the page and see what happens next.