It’s crazy how things change.
Two years ago, Isaiah Thomas was scoring 28.9 points and six assists per game in what went down as one of the greatest seasons by a player in Boston Celtics history. Considering the storied success of the Celtics, this was no small feat (and no pun intended).
Now, the 5 feet 9 inch 30-year-old point guard is scoring just 7.7 points in 10 total games for the Denver Nuggets; his fourth team in just three seasons. Thomas returned to the TD Garden this week when his Nuggets visited the Celtics. Tribute videos aside, it was a less-than-ideal way to perform in front of his former home crowd.
In just seven minutes of action, he scored zero points on two shots and recorded a couple of assists. Statlines like this have been the norm for Thomas, who after suffering a season-ending hip injury in 2017 was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for star point guard Kyrie Irving. After a disappointing run with the Cavs and a midseason trade to the Lakers, he signed a minimum one-year deal with the Nuggets. So much for that max contract he had all but lined up for him in Boston.
Before the game, IT made some interesting comments to the Boston Globe about a potential return to the city that finally embraced him.
“I know we left on bad terms with me being traded,” Thomas said. “I wanted them to know that the interest was there. I didn’t know if they were interested, and I wasn’t saying I wanted to come back and be the guy. I was just saying if the opportunity presents itself, just know I’m interested.”
He added that nobody ever really knows what could happen in free agency and that he’s happy to be a Denver Nugget right now. But with those comments plus the mutual love and embrace for the city of Boston, a return to the Garden isn’t actually so far-fetched. It’s amazing to think that a guy could forgive a team that traded him at the peak of his powers, after all that he’d been through there, and possibly cost him some serious contract money along the way. But Isaiah Thomas isn’t your average NBA player and Danny Ainge certainly isn’t an average GM.
It also just makes a lot of basketball sense. Backup guard Terry Rozier is scheduled to become a restricted free agent after this season, meaning technically his fate is still in the hands of the Boston Celtics. He’s performed very well in absence of Kyrie Irving, which both good and bad. For Boston, it means you have a guy that’s capable of starting caliber basketball. On the bad side, it also means you have a guy that’s probably asking for starting caliber money. Assuming Kyrie Irving returns to Boston, as he initially said he intended to do, it might make more sense for Ainge to let Rozier go and allow somebody to else to overpay him.
Insert Isaiah Thomas. Yes, he’s been riddled by injury ever since the Kyrie trade. But in the time that he actually saw considerable minutes, he still contributed value to the offense in both Cleveland and Los Angeles. As a backup to Kyrie, he can offer the team some much needed offense in the second unit and poise on the floor. More than anything, he’d be signed to a very team-friendly contract, if not the minimum.
I hope it happens. It’d be a feel-good ending to a somewhat tragic career-trajectory. It’s good for Isaiah and it’s good for Boston. So why not let it happen?