WALTHAM, Mass. — Isaiah Thomas operates with a permanent chip on his shoulder, especially when his height is the topic of discussion.
So, if you question the Boston Celtics point guard’s ability to play solid defense at just 5-foot-9, you’d best believe he’ll call you out.
That’s exactly what Thomas did Friday after the Celtics’ practice session when asked how he’d respond to critics who label him a “defensive liability.”
“That’s the people who don’t watch the game,” Thomas told reporters. “So, I’m fine with it. It’s the people who probably can’t play basketball.”
Well, there you have it. If you’re not a professional basketball player, don’t go criticizing Thomas’ efforts on the defensive end.
Of course, there’s some validation to that criticism. While Thomas’ defense has improved significantly since joining Boston — his 108.6 defensive rating this season was the highest of his career — the All-Star point guard’s height still limits him in matchups with taller guards who can get more open looks against him.
So, could Thomas, in fact, be a “defensive liability” in a first-round NBA playoff matchup against the Chicago Bulls, who boast a strong backcourt in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade and an elite wing scorer in Jimmy Butler? Head coach Brad Stevens believes Boston’s success won’t come down to individual matchups, but rather a collective effort to limit Butler and Chicago’s other offensive threats.
“You’re never going to eliminate guys like that,” Stevens said after Friday’s practice. “Your goal is to try to make it so that they have to take a lot of shots to score, or at least feel you the whole game.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images