Isaiah Thomas played through injury to help the Celtics advance to the Eastern Conference finals. Then, they traded him to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. Thomas’ health has become a massive concern, just as he enters a contract year and nears an opportunity for his first mega payday.
Five months have passed and Thomas rises from his kitchen table to stretch his right hip. “No doubt about it, I should have sat out the playoffs,” he says. “No way around it, I made it worse.”
When Sacramento let Thomas walk in 2014, he left town telling himself, “F— Sacramento. I’m about to kill those dudes.” When Phoenix exiled him the following winter, he pledged, “O.K., now they’re gonna get it.” But there will be no revenge tour this time. “Boston is going to be all love,” he vows, with one exception. “I might not ever talk to Danny again. That might not happen. I’ll talk to everybody else. But what he did, knowing everything I went through, you don’t do that, bro. That’s not right. I’m not saying eff you. But every team in this situation comes out a year or two later and says, ‘We made a mistake.’ That’s what they’ll say, too.”
The 5-foot-9 Thomas had to be defiant to make it this far. He’s not going to stop identifying enemies now, especially with former Boston teammates egging him on.
Danny Ainge, who called trading Thomas the toughest decision he’d ever made, probably accepts being the villain. It’s a role he has filled many times before, and that’s what it took to land Irving, an incredibly valuable player.
Thomas gave so much to the Celtics, and it stinks they wore down his body while he was on a cheap contract then traded him before he was due a massive raise. But that’s also the business. I suspect Thomas understands that on a certain level, but it also behooves him to frame the situation in the way that maximizes his motivation.