Isaiah Thomas’ final year in Boston was a storybook season fit for a king. In 2016-2017, he was an MVP candidate that lead a scrappy Celtics team to the Eastern Conference Finals, but fell short when a hip injury ended his season and subsequently, a trade dealt him to Cleveland. It wasn’t the happy ending that IT envisioned. He had even bought special shoes green and gold shoes that he planned on wearing in the 2017 Finals, but Cinderella never made it to the ball. However, every fairy tale has a happy ending and Thomas still sees a future in green.
Despite a scoreless performance last night, the King of the 4th couldn’t help but reminisce about the magical year he had in Boston despite missing both shots he missed in Boston’s 114-105 loss to Denver. “I didn’t think I missed in this building. I haven’t been here in a while, Thomas said. “I was just glad I was able to get out there and play no matter how long I played. It was fun to be able to do that in front of the best fans in the world.”
It was a sentiment shared by all in the Garden last night. Midway through the first quarter, Thomas finally got his video tribute in front of the Boston faithful:
Boston showed IT love with this tribute video pic.twitter.com/LLodHLHoLB— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 18, 2019
After the game, Thomas reflected about that moment. “That was emotional. I almost cried,” he joked. “That was everything. I appreciate them for doing that. That meant a lot.”
With as talented as a team the Celtics have today, it’s easy to forget that this rebuild was rooted in patience, perseverance, and punk rock attitude. They reveled in being NBA misfits and succeeded because they were always better than the sum of their parts. Thomas embodied that credo and he’ll always be a hero in Boston.
“It was big time. I appreciate them for doing that. That meant a lot especially for not being able to be in a situation where I’m playing right now,” he continued. “This type of love is something that I wanted, I needed, and I’m glad I was able to come back. The love was just amazing.”
It was a moment not lost on his former head coach, Brad Stevens. “Well deserved, ten times over. I can’t say enough great things about Isaiah. I could sit up here all night. Certainly, that video tribute was great. Our people did a great job on it,” Stevens said. “It was emotional and it could have lasted a lot longer. Greatly appreciative of our time together. I was glad that he got that moment.”
Thomas spoke about his relationship with Stevens, including his advice to him about “just being patient, knowing who I am, not just as a player but as a person” and calling Stevens “the best coach I’ve ever been coached by.” Thomas’ love for the organization doesn’t end with Stevens. IT joked about being guarded by his good friend, Jaylen Brown, and called “winning the Community Service Award one of the biggest accomplishments in my career.”
“Those guys are brothers to me. Those guys are always and will always be family. This whole organization, the coaching staff, everybody that I was here with for those three years is always going to be family. It’s special in my heart.”
Danny Ainge and Isaiah Thomas hugged after tonight's game. pic.twitter.com/9YCibgjMTF— Boston.com Celtics News (@BDCCeltics) March 19, 2019
Thomas signed a one-year veteran’s minimum contract with the Nuggets for this season. He’ll enter free agency this summer after spending the entire year rehabbing from second surgery on his hip. There will always be speculation that a return to Boston is possible. In an interview with The Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, Thomas said that he contacted Danny Ainge and the Celtics about the potential of a reunion. He’s been cagey about the subject recently with “who knows?” and “why not?” but when asked about what the city of Boston means to him, he couldn’t be more clear. “Home.”
“I went through a real life situation here when I lost my sister and this city and organization went through it with me. The love was always there, but that took it to another level. I went through the worst situation you can possible go through in life with these people and they were right there with me,” Thomas said. “Everybody. In the city, the organization, they went through that with me. That’s why Boston means so much to me.”