BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas won’t sugarcoat it: He hates coming off the bench. Hates it. If given the chance to start, Thomas would take it in a second.
That’s not going to happen anytime soon, though. The Celtics point guard has been too valuable to his team in a reserve role, and the team itself has enjoyed too much success for coach Brad Stevens to mess with a good thing this late in the season.
So, for now, Thomas is stuck. But as the Celtics prepare to begin postseason play, he’s not going to be one to complain.
“Nobody’s sold me on no sixth man role,” Thomas said before Tuesday’s 95-93 win over the Toronto Raptors. “I’ve only had a few talks with (president of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge), a few talks with Brad. This is the role for the team right now, and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
Thomas has indeed taken full advantage of his role, so much so that he’s among the front-runners for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. The Celtics on Tuesday honored John Havlicek, the greatest sixth man in NBA history, and Thomas spoke about what an honor it would be to continue that legacy.
“It means a lot,” said Thomas, who’s averaged 19.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 21 games with the Celtics this season. “There’s been a lot of great players in that role. To hopefully win that award and carry on that success that this organization has had in previous years, it means a lot. To have your name up there with great players like Kevin McHale and a few other guys, it’s just … it would be a blessing.”
An award would be nice, but Thomas’ attention is primarily fixed on the playoffs. The Celtics wrapped up the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday and will play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round. Thomas, who will be experiencing playoff basketball for the first time in his NBA career, can’t wait to get things started.
“It’s the next step in my career,” he said. “I think that’s where all the great players make their name — the playoffs. I’m excited about it. Just being a part of this team, and being able to turn this season around and be a factor. People really know who we are. We’re ready for that stage.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images