Although a number of high-level players and bona fide fan favorites have spent time with the Boston Celtics in recent years, few have been as popular in Beantown as Isaiah Thomas. Even with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown ascending toward elite status, Thomas remains in rarefied air.
During his two-plus seasons in Boston, the diminutive floor general undoubtedly played the best basketball of his career. In 179 games with the team, he averaged 24.7 points, 6.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds per contest.
In doing so, he earned two All-Star selections and led the Celtics to the No. 1 spot in the East and a run to the conference finals in 2017.
A lot has changed for Boston and Thomas since then. The Celtics have undergone multiple metamorphoses with varying levels of success while IT has bounced from team to team and dealt with nagging hip problems.
Earlier this month, Thomas made his NBA return on a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. However, the team ultimately decided against re-signing him upon its expiration, making him a free agent once more.
While he struggled to find a rhythm from the floor in his three games with the Pelicans, Thomas has insisted that his injury problems are behind him. Consequently, multiple teams are rumored to have shown interest in bringing the 32-year-old on board.
According to a report, the Celtics may be one of the interested parties.
Massey: Celtics “Among Teams to Watch” on Thomas Front
On Wednesday, Evan Massey of The NBA Analysis Network tweeted that Thomas has received interest from a number of teams. Per Massey, the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and the Celtics are “among teams to watch for” as Thomas seeks his next basketball home.
There are reasons to believe that a Boston homecoming could be a good thing for both the player and his former club. However, the potential pairing also falls well short of being a slam dunk move.
Although the Celtics have been playing well recently, winning six of their last seven games, the ’20-21 campaign has largely been one in which the franchise has underachieved. They have been particularly inconsistent in clutch situations, often failing to combat the intensity of the situation with a strong defensive mindset or a will to win
In Thomas, they would be getting a certified gamer who, even if he can’t be the IT of old, can still provide a strong veteran presence, a leading voice and the occasional highlight play. It also helps that he understands Brad Stevens’ system intimately and has cred with Brown and Marcus Smart as their one-time vet.
On the other hand, there’s not currently a roster spot open for Thomas, as the Cs have filled their 15 main roster spots and have likewise filled their two-way spots. So, in order to bring him into the fold, the Celtics would have to cut somebody.
Moreover, beyond what he would bring in the huddle and behind the scenes, it’s difficult to project what he would actually add on the hardwood. Thomas is four years removed from that magical 2016-17 season and has never looked the same since.
He played well in a short stint with USA Basketball in February. During his two AmeriCup qualifying games, he averaged 14.0 points per game and hit 50 percent of his triples. However, that was against a lower level of competition.
And while he says he is feeling better than he has in years, his 33-percent shooting in NOLA didn’t exactly inspire confidence in a comeback.
Thomas’ Lasting Impression in Boston
Regardless of whether there is any validity to the latest IT-Celtics chatter, one thing is certain — his legacy in Boston is clearly secure.
After Tatum dropped 53 points in a comeback win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last week, Stevens mentioned that the effort reminded him of Thomas during the post-game media scrum.
“It was a lot like what I recall about Isaiah on so many occasions,” he said. “He just wouldn’t let us lose. And Tatum was like that.”
During that 2017 playoff run, Thomas had scored 53 points of his own during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Washington Wizards. The career-high outburst came on the birthday of his late sister, Chyna Thomas, who was killed in a single-car accident not long before.
The way in which his team and the city of Boston rallied around him was special. And he undoubtedly continues to hold a prominent place in the Celtics annals.
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