How IT played
In his first game back, Isaiah Thomas looked pretty good. IT had some rust, but he shot 6 of 12 from the field and 3-8 from three. He finished the night with 17 points and 3 assists. For the most part he looked like the old IT – he had a drive where he beat his defender, created contact, and finished off the play for an and one. Although he hit his shots, they appeared to be wide open and not heavily contested. It will be interesting to see how he looks when he goes up against defenders like Patrick Beverly and Avery Bradley. Only then will we know if Isaiah is truly back. Coming off the bench, the Cavs have a plan to only play Isaiah 12-20 minutes and going forward he will not play back-to-back nights.
Celtics Fans’ Reaction
IT should and better get a standing ovation from the Boston crowd. Besides Brad and Danny, IT is the most important part of the Celtics turnaround from being a lottery team to reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. When IT was traded to the Celtics, they had a losing record and were expected to be a lottery team for the second year in a row. He elevated his game and took that team all the way to the playoffs. He was an embodiment of what Boston loves in their athletes — someone who is tough as nails, always plays with a chip on his shoulder and is willing to leave it all out there on the court.
Since the trade, IT has said that he wishes he didn’t play through his hip injury in last years playoffs because it cost him a large chunk of his 2017-2018 season. These are not the comments that a Boston fan wants to hear but what Isaiah maybe doesn’t realize just yet is that 15-20 years from now Boston fans wont forget what he did playing through his hip injury and the death of his sister.
Just like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, when IT comes back Wednesday night he will be doused with love and cheers. He will hear thank you, IT chants/signs and possibly an MVP chant to top it off just so he knows how much this city cared for him.
Isaiah has asked that the Celtics not play a tribute video in his first trip back. In a response on Twitter, Thomas explains why he declined the tribute video “I would like to actually PLAY & have my family in the arena to appreciate the love the city/organization will show US? It ain’t about me its about my family.” The Celtics agreed to not play a video this time but they plan to do so in the future.
With all this love going to IT, does Jae expect to receive a standing ovation or a tribute video? I would expect him to get a video, but I’m not so sure he gets cheered. He was critical of the Boston fans cheering opposing player Gordon Hayward and basically called the fans racist and the fact that he gave Gordon a little bump in the air which led to his gruesome injury.
Why play IT against Portland instead of Boston?
Holding IT out on Wednesday is the smartest thing the Cavs could do for many reasons.
- It removes the threat of Isaiah pushing too hard to get his “revenge” on the Celtics front office.
- It takes the spotlight off of him and allows him to ease back into playing under the radar.
- The story shifts from Isaiah vs. Celtics to Lebron vs. Irving/ Celtics vs Cavs.
It stinks for the fans not to get to see IT play, but this is the smart move for him and the team moving forward.
Who Won the Trade?
Months after the trade went down, we still can’t determine who won this trade. The Celtics look fantastic with Kyrie and are playing tremendous basketball, but the Cavs get IT back and he could very well be the difference maker this year. The Brooklyn pick doesn’t look as valuable as it has the past few years. The Nets are currently 14-23 which puts them 10th from the bottom and gives them a 4.0% chance to land a top 3 pick and 1.1% to get the first overall pick. The idea was to either trade the lottery pick for an all star at the deadline or keep the pick to help with a potential rebuild if LeBron leaves. At this point with the pick being so low, the Cavs won’t be able to get that difference maker at the deadline and is probably best to keep it.
The biggest chip in the trade was Kyrie Irving who is playing like on an MVP level this year. There were questions as to whether he would work in Brad’s offense and would he put in the effort to play the defense. The answer to both questions are yes. Kyrie is playing the best defense of his career, just watching him play, he’s going all out and rarely taking a play off. Defensively he is averaging 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.3 blocks a game. Offensively he is averaging 24.8 points and 4.9 assists per game. He’s becoming more of a passer and has excepted the role of playing off the ball at times.
Jae Crowder, who the media was gushing over immediately following the trade is back to being the average role player he always was. It wasn’t fair to Jae that the media put expectations on him that he wouldn’t be able to reach. He’s a good 3 and D role player coming off the bench. He averages 8.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and is shooting 40% from three while playing 26 minutes a game.
Ante Zizic was a draft and stash by the Celtics a few years ago and received high praises from scouts in Europe. In his first year in the NBA he is bouncing back and forth between the NBA and the G-League. When he does get into games they are blowouts, he’s averaging 1.2 points and 1.2 rebounds.
Additional thoughts on the Irving and Isaiah
Kryie is a player that other young superstars would love to play with. The most notable superstar that has been on the Celtics radar for years has been Anthony Davis. The Pelicans have said multiple times that they have no interest in trading Davis. However if things get ugly in New Orleans, I could see a scenario where Davis forces his way out and asks to be traded to a team like Boston that already has a superstar in Irving and has a ton of young talent.
As much as we love Isaiah, he was a player that needed to touch the ball on every possession. He earned the nickname King of the Fourth because of the way he would take over the 4th quarter. With that being said, I wonder if Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum would have been able to develop the way they have if IT was here and healthy. Tatum in the 4th quarter this year is shooting 70% 17 for 24 from the field and has made 3 of 4 three pointers 75%. On the season he is averaging 14.1 points, 1.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Jaylen Brown has also taken a big step from year 1 to year 2 and I’m not sure if he would have taken this big of a step if Isaiah was here. He is averaging 14.4 points, 1.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game.
As much as we love IT, Danny made the right move in trading him. It’s too early to declare a winner, but as of right now the Celtics have zero regrets about making this move and the fans agree.