There’s no doubt that Isaiah Thomas was a great Boston Celtic.
In his short time in Boston, he epitomized traits that make a great Celtic: Grit, determination and hard work to go with God-given talent.
That was no less on display in last spring’s Eastern Conference playoffs, in which he took to the court for Game 1 of the Celtics’ first-round series against the Chicago Bulls shortly after his sister was killed in a car accident.
But, Thomas was recently introduced to the business side of sports when he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for dynamic point guard Kyrie Irving.
Boston also sent Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round draft pick which the Celtics acquired in the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade in 2012, and a 2020-second rounder.
Naturally, Thomas admitted that he was hurt upon learning of the trade.
That’s understandable. It always feels like a punch in the gut when your general manager gives you bad news.
But let’s face it. As great as Thomas was for the Celtics, this was a move GM Danny Ainge needed to make, and it, along with the signing of Gordon Hayward, proves that he’s serious about bringing Banner 18 to Causeway Street.
Irving is only 25 years old, and is in the prime of his career. He bailed out LeBron James in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, preventing the 73-win Golden State Warriors from making history. He is an excellent pure shooter and is arguably the toughest player to guard in the NBA.
Thomas, meanwhile, will be 29 next February, and will demand a max contract when he becomes a free agent. It’s unlikely the Celtics were going to back up the Brinks truck for a 5-foot-9 inch guard.
It’s a win-win for both teams. The arrivals of Irving and Hayward give the Celtics a dynamic offensive punch. It should take some offensive pressure off of Al Horford, and the ceiling is high on young talent Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and rookie Jayson Taytum.
Thomas, meanwhile, is heading to an organization that could be looking to rebuild around him after next season, as James will be able to opt out of his contract next summer, and it’s not crazy to say that LeBron and Paul George, who will also be a free agent next summer, could team up somewhere, possibly Los Angeles. Thomas is also recuperating from a hip injury that ended his season in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Thomas loved Boston, and Boston loved Isaiah, but it’s kind of odd to hear that his feelings were hurt by this trade. Look at the marquee players Bill Belichick has dealt or released from the New England Patriots. Adam Vinatieri, Randy Moss, Willie McGinest and Lawyer Milloy, the latter of whom was cut just a few days before the Super Bowl-winning season of 2003, all come to mind.
Anybody remember a Boston icon named Nomar Garciaparra being shipped to the Cubs one hour before the trade deadline in 2004? Anybody remember what happened in the two and a half months after that trade? There were more fireworks on Twitter than in the sky on the Fourth of July in 2013 when a dynamic Boston Bruin named Tyler Seguin was exiled to Dallas.
Isaiah, Celtics fans will never forget what you did in your short time here. See you in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.