I’ve been a fan of Boston sports my entire life. As a 4-year-old, I would sit around and watch Andy Moog play goalie for the B’s and cheer on Jozef Stümpel as he skated up and down the ice. As a 6-year-old I would watch my first true love, the Red Sox, and actually made my parents call me Scott for weeks because I loved 2B Scott Fletcher. The day before I turned 8, I went to my first football game in Foxboro. It was my first interaction with the sport, I couldn’t have named 5 teams back then, but now I’m as dedicated to the Patriots as I am to anything.
Until I was nearly 14, I didn’t fully enjoy the game of basketball. I was drawn to the announcer team, Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn. I would become excited when Tommy would give out Tommy-Points and yell “I love Waltah” in reference to Celtics player Walter McCarty, who is now their Assistant Coach. Paul Pierce became my favorite player, and a fan was born.
Now, I didn’t follow the Celtics as closely as I did the other three teams. I still don’t, really. I never fell in love with the game of basketball, I still haven’t – probably never will. That doesn’t mean I don’t watch games or read articles. I follow the big-time NBA guys on Twitter, pay attention to the things that matter, but really just focus on my guys in green. Playoff basketball is still exciting as all hell, the draft is super fun, this past off-season’s free agency period was pretty much must-see-TV every day, but the product the NBA showcases every night isn’t a great one. Games have entirely too many timeouts, the fans sitting on the court is the dumbest thing in sports, and squeaking shoes irritate the shit out of me. (Yo, if your shoes squeak when you walk we can’t be friends and you can just stop reading now) Those are ridiculous reasons to not watch a high-quality basketball game – I watched the games I was supposed to watch, but I definitely fell off a bit around 2011. So how was it that this non-basketball loving guy watched nearly every Celtics game last season?
♣♣♣ BECAUSE OF ISAIAH THOMAS! ♣♣♣
It shouldn’t have surprised Celtics fans when IT was traded because we knew the team that was put together last year couldn’t hang with the more talented teams in the league. We all knew Brad Stevens wasn’t the problem, as he is well on his way to becoming one of the league’s more respected coaches. So we all suspected Dealin’ Danny was going to do something to help get this team over the hump, whether it was landing Gordon Hayward in free agency (he did), making waves through the trade market (splash!), or drafting a player who fits the Celtics scheme better (Tatum SZN).
When Thomas was traded to Cleveland in the deal that brought Kyrie ‘Flat Earth” Irving to Boston, I definitely wasn’t surprised; Danny Ainge would trade away his own family if it meant the Celtics could acquire future first-round draft picks. Ainge has always been a business-first GM, I mean, you have to be, right? Your GM can’t be afraid to make big trades or act aggressively in contract negotiations. Ainge has never been shy about filling up the Celtics’ transaction log in the off-season. He’s traded away rookies, draft picks, veterans, all-stars, even Hall of Famers. So how is it this Isaiah Thomas trade is the one he might most be remembered for? It’s the way Isaiah is handling it.
I’m not talking about the business aspect of the trade (it was a good deal — for both teams). We should all understand that athletes are contractually-obligated employees & have the right to work no-trade clauses into their contracts, if they don’t, then it’s fair game. I’m talking about the relationship between Isaiah and Danny Ainge, the relationship I.T. has with the Boston fans, with the Celtics as a franchise…that’s an important part of this. Every player that gets traded goes through some type of emotion. Sometimes they get mad and rip their old team or coaches, sometimes they release kind statements thanking fans, players and ownership and sometimes you don’t hear from anybody until a reporter stuff a mic in their face. It’s not always a single player does all of those things. I.T. is clearly hurting. And you can understand why.
In an interview Thomas did with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, the new Cleveland PG doubled down on his feelings he wrote about in his Players’ Tribune essay back in September.
“I might not ever talk to Danny again. That might not happen. I’ll talk to everybody else. But what he did, knowing everything I went through, you don’t do that, bro. That’s not right. I’m not saying eff you. But every team in this situation comes out a year or two later and says, ‘We made a mistake.’ That’s what they’ll say, too.”
Those are the words of a man who has said he understands the “cruel business” side to this sport, yet may never speak to the man that brought him to Boston in the first place. That’s pain talking. Isaiah Thomas gave his heart to Boston through the toughest time of his life following the sudden, tragic death of his sister Chyna. The King of the Fourth put the Celtics on his back, hit a bazillion (don’t fact check me) clutch shots, and got a TON of folks, myself included, interested in the Celtics again.
Danny Ainge responded to Thomas’ comments on Wednesday, pretty much brushing them off when saying:
“That’s the hard part of the job. I mean, I know there is a lot of feelings that go on when these type of things happen,” Ainge told reporters. “I was a player that was traded twice so I understand his sentiments, but you guys know how much I love Isaiah. He’s a great kid and I wish him the best.”
Now that tight-knit, emotionless part of his response rubs me the wrong way, man — damn, it does. It’s not the tone-deaf nature of his “understanding” that bothers me, it’s the comparison he drew between himself and Thomas.
Because we all remember the game Danny Ainge broke his teeth, got them “re-positioned” in the locker room, then came back out to toss up 33 & 9 while lifting his team to a win.
Who can forget the time Danny Ainge suited up against the Heat and dropped 29 in the fourth quarter capping a 52 point night? That shit was epic!
Of course we ALL remember when Danny Ainge scored 55 points in a playoff game on his very-recently-deceased sister’s birthday. It was a magical night.
Oh, Danny was traded twice so obviously he knows how Isaiah is feeling, right? GIVE ME A BREAK. I’m not saying Danny has to cry on national T.V. to show his support for Isaiah, in fact, nobody wants their G.M. openly supporting another team’s player — but this is SO different. That being said, would it kill Danny to express just a little bit of genuine emotion to the one guy who made the shit-team he put together last year worth watching? And before you tell me the Celtics were the #1 seed, let me remind you that if Rajon Rondo didn’t get hurt, Chicago would’ve swept Boston in the first round. I wouldn’t kill Danny for that, nobody would.
Ainge went on to say he’s open to talking to Thomas again in the video below.
Danny Ainge says he understands Isaiah Thomas' emotional reaction and why he said he wouldn't talk to him again. pic.twitter.com/Li5XtlRx3i
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) October 11, 2017
I hope these questions won’t continue throughout the season but if Isaiah continues to provide questions with answers involving Ainge, Boston or the trade, in general, then this story only seems to be heating up rather than fading away like other trades in the past. Isaiah won’t be ready in time for the start of Cleveland’s season, due to his well-documented hip injury, so he has A LOT of time to talk.
During a time when the wealthiest NBA contracts are being handed out, a new record-breaking contract being signed seemingly every week, NBA players have become more goal-oriented than money-hungry when choosing their destinations in free agency. Kevin Durant joined Golden State so he could win a ring & D-Wade turned down a somewhere close to Dr. Evil Money with Chicago to chase a career-ending ring with Cleveland. I wouldn’t expect Thomas’ discontent for Ainge to cause any hesitation in potential free agents’ willingness to sign with Boston, but it does prove that Danny Ainge will always put his business-first mentality above anything else. That mentality brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston in 2008. He used that very same mentality to trade away Kevin Garnett and Paul Piece which, in turn, has allowed him to create the 2017-2018 Boston Celtics — a team EVERY Celtics fan is looking forward to watching this season.
Photo Credit: NBCSports.com