Isaiah Thomas only was with the Boston Celtics for two and a half years, but the star guard was extremely influential during his brief stint with the team.
Thomas posted career seasons with the Celtics, establishing himself as one of the most dynamic scorers in the NBA. As a result of Thomas’ ascent, Boston signed Al Horford last summer, one of the biggest free-agent signings for the Celtics in recent memory.
But while the Horford signing was exciting for the C’s, it doesn’t hold a candle to Boston’s active offseason this summer. The Celtics added Gordon Hayward as a free agent and sent shockwaves around the league when they traded for Kyrie Irving, a deal that sent Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After Irving and Hayward were introduced Friday, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge explained just how difficult it was to say goodbye to Thomas, but also noted the critical role the two-time All-Star played in bringing marquee talent to Boston.
“It was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had in my life,” Ainge told CSNNE, as transcribed by MassLive. “IT, everybody in Boston will be grateful for IT and all that he’s done. We wouldn’t be here today with Kyrie and Gordon Hayward and Al Horford if IT didn’t exist.
“If IT really hadn’t helped us get back on the map and become a respectable team and do all that he did this past year — Second Team All-NBA and so forth — we’re probably not sitting here having this press conference, because Gordon Hayward probably isn’t impressed with the team and Horford and everything else.”
Thomas has a great chance to continue his success in Cleveland, as he’ll play alongside LeBron James, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavaliers’ talented roster. And even though the Cavs and Celtics will battle for Eastern Conference supremacy, Ainge still is rooting for the 5-foot-8 guard.
“Those are the really, really hard decisions and a very hard conversation to have with IT,” Ainge said. “IT, as you know, is a very good man, but he’s very emotional as well, and he’ll wear that chip on his shoulder and be out to prove how great he’s going to recover from his injuries and I look forward to that. It will be the happiest day of my life when I see him make a full recovery and play as great as he did last year for another few years.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images