On Monday, the Boston Celtics gave a touching tribute to former All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas during their loss against the Denver Nuggets. Thomas’s experience in Boston was so positive that even though the Celtics traded him for Kyrie Irving, he has indicated that he would have an interest in playing there again. However, as nice a gesture as this would be, Boston should not even entertain the idea of bringing back Isaiah Thomas.
From 2015 to 2017, Thomas was an inspirational story for the Celtics. After entering the league as the final pick of the 2011 draft, Thomas didn’t find a home with Sacramento or Phoenix. After being traded to the Celtics, he broke out in a big way, making two All-Star appearances and averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists in 2016-2017. His success was even more impressive because of his 5’9″ frame, and he put together one of the most emotional performances in NBA history as he led Boston to the Eastern Conference Finals after the death of his sister.
However, since that time, Thomas’s career has spiraled into oblivion, and a return should not interest the Celtics in the slightest.
A mysterious hip injury and a possible mismanagement of the situation by team medical personnel forced Thomas to miss most of the 2017-2018 season, only he wouldn’t play for Boston. Before the season began, the Celtics traded Thomas in a package to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. Thomas felt betrayed by the move, and it’s hard to blame him for thinking that way.
His tenure with the Cavs could not have gone worse. In his 15 games with the team, it was clear that he was not the same player who averaged nearly 30 points per game the year before. His hip injury robbed him of much of his lateral agility, much like a similar injury ruined the career of Jonny Flynn. At Thomas’s size, he had no choice but to be faster and quicker than his opponent. Now, he was just much shorter. Due to his injury, his effectiveness plummeted, as he shot just 36% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc. Cleveland quickly gave up on Thomas, trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thomas played 17 games for the Lakers, where his numbers improved, but only slightly. In late March, he was shut down for the remainder of the season to undergo surgery on his hip, something that should have happened long before.
Thomas’s injury wasn’t the only disappointing aspect of his time in Cleveland. He had earned a reputation of being a hard worker and a team leader in Boston, but for the Cavaliers, he was anything but. The Cavs locker room was tumultuous to say the least, and Thomas had a major role in that, including chastising Kevin Love for exiting a game due to a nervous breakdown. Love’s mental issues are well documented, and Thomas had the audacity to call him out.
In stark contrast to his attitude with the Celtics, Thomas appeared disgruntled and entitled. His on-court performance did nothing to improve fans’ opinions of him, and it’s safe to say the entire Cleveland fanbase was relieved when Thomas was traded. In August of 2018, Thomas reflected on his time with the Cavs in an Instagram Live video, making glowing statements such as “Cleveland was a s***hole…I see why [LeBron James] left.”
Thomas signed with the Denver Nuggets in the offseason, hoping to get a chance to prove himself after getting healthy. However, not much has changed, on the court or off it. He played in 10 games for Denver this year, shot 36% from the field, and has been completely removed from the rotation. Even with all his comments, it’s hard not to feel bad for Thomas. He was destined to earn a max contract and put his body in jeopardy for his team, only to suffer a major injury and get traded.
Whether Thomas wants it to happen or not, a Boston reunion would not be smart for the Celtics. The threat of locker room problems alone is reason enough to stay away, and there really is no potential upside on the floor. Thomas is nothing close to the player he was when he last worse green and white, and for Boston’s sake, he won’t wear it again.