Isaiah Thomas recently made his official return to the Boston Celtics floor since being traded almost two years ago.
It was nothing but a bittersweet feeling when the Celtics gave Thomas a tribute video during the first quarter of the Celtics-Nuggets game. After the game, a reporter asked Thomas what would it be like if he were still a Celtic today. Thomas quickly responded — “Yeah, we would have won a championship already.”
As we all know, Isaiah Thomas was traded in the offseason in 2017 when former Cavaliers Guard Kyrie Irving requested a trade and wanting separation from superstar LeBron James. Celtics GM Danny Ainge was not hesitant to bring Kyrie to the franchise as he traded away Thomas (who was suffering from a hip injury in the offseason) and Jae Crowder to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving.
Since the trade, Thomas’ career hasn’t necessarily been the same as he continues to jump different ships to find out where he can play at his best once again.
Let’s reflect back to Isaiah Thomas’ MVP caliber year in 2016-2017. Thomas had a career year averaging 29 points per game while shooting 46% from the field. IT was showing the world he was definitely a dominant force with his spectacular play and his leadership giving the Celtics the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Not only were the Celtics spurred on by Thomas’ play, they had a great supporting cast with young Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Jae Crowder, and Avery Bradley playing alongside Thomas in the backcourt.
I don’t believe that anyone thought this Celtics team would be a contender for a championship. Especially with a Cleveland team led by LeBron and Kyrie. Not to mention a Washington team who was on the rise to be great lead by John Wall and Bradley Beal. But the Celtics had one thing that other teams didn’t have — heart.
Isaiah believed that the Celtics were really on pace to win a championship that year. With the high level of basketball he was playing alongside his teammates, everyone playing their roles on the court — Any real fan could think that this team would have smooth sailing through the East and into the NBA Finals.
It wasn’t until prior to their opening playoff game, against the Bulls, where Isaiah found out that his sister Chyna was killed in a car crash. Of course, this unfortunate situation had to make everything fumble for the Celtics and their leader. But Isaiah didn’t let his sister’s death keep him away from playing the game he loves. The day after Chyna’s death, Thomas decided to play in Game 1 of the playoffs and help his team get a win.
Thomas recorded 33 points and 6 assist in the first game of the series. Unfortunately, the Bulls were able to prevail against the Celtics in a 106-102 victory. The Celtics then lost Game 2, putting them two games behind the Bulls in the series. That was when the Celtics finally came together. They won the next four games to win the series in 6 games and advance to the second round.
Meanwhile, Boston had the Washington Wizards in the second round and what a dog fight that was. Thomas was going against one of the best point guards in the NBA, John Wall, who just finished one of the best regular seasons of his career in 2016 – 2017.
Thomas outplayed Wall throughout the series, including scoring a career-high 53 points in Game 2 on his sister’s birthday out dueling Wall who led his team with 40 points. It was a dogfight in every game of the series. Luckily, the Celtics prevailed against the Wizards in the second round and were on their way to the Conference Finals.
Cleveland was waiting for Boston well rested as they swept the first two rounds against Indiana and Toronto. In the first two games of the series, Boston absolutely was outmatched playing against two of the best players in the NBA– LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Cleveland won the first two games of the series by a combined 57 points. Isaiah Thomas went down with a hip injury in Game 2 and that was the last we saw of him in a Boston uniform as Cleveland obliterated Boston in 5 games to advance to the NBA Finals that year.
The 2016-2017 season is arguably the best season statistically for Isaiah Thomas. The numbers show that he was a dominant force for his team and it showed every time he stepped out on the court. It’s a debatable topic whether Isaiah’s statement on his return to Boston is true. Would they have a championship by now had Thomas remained in a Celtic uniform? Either way, there is no doubt that they would have continued to be NBA contenders with the supporting cast that they had.
Now that Isaiah is in Denver, there is a chance that he can become the competitive player he once was with the Celtics. Will he become the best player on the team? That is doubtful considering how great Nikola Jokic has been for the team thus far. But even if Thomas is not the best player on the team, he can still figure out a way to be the best version of himself and help the team come out of the Western Conference and possibly secure an NBA Title as well.
Being the best version of himself on the court is all any ballplayer can ask of himself when in motion.
Thanks for checking out my Flashback Friday take on what happened to Isaiah Thomas. Presented to you in this format, exclusively on 94.1, Sports Talk with Herstun FM Readio.