WALTHAM, Mass. — The recent company line has been consistent: The Boston Celtics are perpetual underdogs who don’t get the credit they deserve.
But after the Celtics moved into the No. 1 seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference on Monday night, is it time to throw that narrative out the window? Not if you ask Isaiah Thomas, the 5-foot-9 point guard who still has a sizable chip on his shoulder.
“Man, nobody respects us,” Thomas said Tuesday at the Celtics’ practice facility.
“Except our peers — I mean, the guys that play against us respect us,” he said. “But when it comes to national media, that’s just what it is. We don’t have LeBron James on our team. We don’t have the Steph Currys and those types of guys. Not to throw shade at any of those guys, but that’s what it is. We’re a group of guys that’s been counted out their whole career, and we like staying under the radar. That’s who we are.”
It might seem hard to go “under the radar” as the top-ranked team in the East. Thomas has a point, though: The Celtics still will play second fiddle to the Cleveland Cavaliers until they prove themselves in the postseason — something they haven’t done with Thomas and head coach Brad Stevens. And even though the Cavs have scuffled lately, Thomas still understands the league’s perceived hierarchy.
“They’re just struggling for whatever reason, but they’re still an NBA championship-caliber team,” Thomas said. “They’re the defending champions, so it goes through them until somebody eliminates them.”
Thomas would love for Boston to be the team that knocks Cleveland out of the playoffs. But he’s learned enough from two straight early playoff exits that a No. 1 seed doesn’t guarantee playoff success.
“Nah, nobody’s even brought it up to me,” Thomas said when asked if his Celtics teammates have discussed their new place atop the standings. “It’s bigger than that. We’re chasing for something bigger than that. It’s cool to have, but we know there’s still time left in the season. Anything can happen.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images