In some ways it seems like a million years ago that Isaiah Thomas was leading the Celtics to playoff wins in dramatic and emotional fashion. In other ways it seems like just yesterday.
He was the catalyst that transitioned the Celtics from rebuilding to competing again. He was the embodiment of Boston’s underdog, overachieving, never quit spirit. He was our star, our franchise, our little guy. Until he wasn’t anymore.
Much has been said and written about his departure and what it meant to the Celtics and Isaiah, but by now it seems that all parties have moved on. Thomas is on his 4th team since leaving Boston and the Celtics are on to their 2nd franchise point guard since he left.
After some initial (and understandable) hurt feelings after the trade, Thomas has maintained a good attitude about everything.
Thomas is even good-natured about his departure from Boston. He remains in touch with many folks from the Celtics, including head coach Brad Stevens, and still appreciates the love that he received there. “Boston will always have my heart, because I went through a real-life situation there, and that city rolled with me,” he says. Even when it comes to basketball—and the Celtics’ failings during the Kyrie Irving era—Thomas says he’s moved on.
”I don’t wish them bad luck,” Thomas says. “It’s just, you can’t duplicate what’s real. What we had was real. There was a time I was upset. I felt like it was handled the wrong way for a franchise player. But I don’t hold no grudges.”
The complicated thing for Boston fans is reconciling the love and admiration we had for Thomas with the feeling of dodging a bullet in regards to his health issues. There’s an alternate reality where the Celtics could have given Thomas a well-deserved contract for over $100M and struggled through several seasons with an injured or diminished franchise player. Granted, some might argue that would have been better than going through what we did with Kyrie Irving, but then again Kemba Walker might not be here at this point either. Butterfly effect and all that.
Regardless, after everything it is just nice to see that Thomas is back on the basketball court making positive contributions to a team that has a need for him. It was a long road to get to this point, but as usual Isaiah’s strength of character got him through it all.
“No, it’s not hard to remind myself who I am, because I have the most confidence in myself,” he said. “But there were days. It’s rehab, and for me to go through that for two years was tough, I’m not going to lie to you. It did break me at times, but it can’t storm forever. The sun eventually has to come out at some point. I had real faith in God, and I know that he can put you things that you can always handle. I have a great circle around me, great friends, great family. They’ve helped me through these past two years, so it’s just taking advantage of the situation. I chose the Wizards because they looked me in the eye and told me they would give me an opportunity and I can’t thank them enough.”
Currently Thomas is averaging 13.2 points a game and 6.2 assists. He has started 3 games and has shown flashes of his old burst.
For the most part, Thomas looks like his old self. He dives to the rim and gets his teammates involved. (His kids have been involved with the team too and have warmed to the city.) He’s shooting 36.4 percent on threes, his best mark since ‘16-17, and, yes, his lower body looks strong hoisting them. He’s even introduced new moves, like an odd one-legged three-point leaner. It’s something he added this summer, the first since 2016 spent working on basketball instead of hip strength.
Of course there’s also the usual defensive limitations due to his size.
Only eight games in, but holy crap at the Isaiah Thomas on-offs pic.twitter.com/h630bF1OM8— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) November 9, 2019
Hopefully once he gets into a groove he’ll find a way to return as close to his old self as possible. He probably won’t have any more seasons like the one where he was in the MVP discussion, but it seems like he can still be a very productive and positive impact player for a team. Right now that means the Wizards. Who knows, someday that might even mean the Celtics again.
Either way it is heart warming to see Isaiah Thomas doing what he loves at a high level again. Fans will never forget what he meant to this franchise and I hope he still looks back fondly of those memories for himself.