Anderson: Few things less believable than Isaiah Thomas smear campaign
I can’t think of a recent Boston athlete that deserves an out-the-door-smear campaign less than now former Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. And that’s only because I don’t consider ex-Sox manager Terry Francona, 21 years removed from his playing days at the time of his firing from the Red Sox in 2011, an athlete at the time of his smear.
That doesn’t mean it won’t happen though, or that it hasn’t already started.
NBA insider Chris Broussard decided to fire the first shot at Thomas’ time in Boston, going on FS1’s Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe on Wednesday to say that Thomas was not liked by his teammates because of his ‘Napoleon Complex’ and allegedly huge ego. And in a city with media that’s done its part to successfully smear Francona, Jason Varitek, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez, Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and David Price (still a work in progress but I’m confident we’ll eventually get there) long after they were out the door or immediately after their exit, it’s only natural to feel that I.T. will be the next target of hot take artists and source vultures. But Broussard is a national guy, of course, and if he’s wrong (which by all accounts he is), this would not be the first time that he’s been caught needlessly talking out of his backside.
But in any case, let’s jump ahead while we still can and offer a suggestion: stop it.
If Thomas was not well liked by his teammates, they have without question given us basketball’s best acting performance since that time Charles Barkley lost his talents and got schooled by some trash-talking playground kids in Space Jam.
Where were the Celtics before Thomas came to town, other than the depths of basketball hell as a proud franchise stuck rebuilding? Actually, to be exact, they were 20-32 before acquiring Thomas at the 2015 trade deadline, finished 20-10 with Thomas on their roster, and even qualified for the postseason. They made an eight-win improvement the following season, and then five win improvement from that this past season, largely due to thanks Thomas’ part in successfully recruiting Al Horford to Boston from Atlanta last summer. They’ll probably be even better this upcoming season thanks to the signing of Gordon Hayward, another player the high-scoring Thomas played a hand in recruiting, and against teams like the Jazz and Miami Heat.
The larger point to be found there is that at no point throughout Thomas’ entire tenure in Boston did he ever drag the Celtics down from their goals or make them a worse team.
You simply can’t ever resent Thomas if you were part of those nightmarish rebuilding squads that played in front of half-empty Garden crowds every night and were merely biding time until your bevy of draft picks developed into something. If they ever did. Nor could you ever doubt his motives or plans when it came to helping the team get better on a year-to-year basis, especially when he didn’t owe the C’s an ounce of loyalty.
And on those few and far between nights where Thomas was not an offensive force for the Celtics or the straw that stirred their drink, he was the first to credit his teammates for picking up the slack. He stayed involved with the C’s playoff run even when he was ruled out for the rest of the postseason, keeping in constant contact with his teammates by any means necessary. He honestly probably would’ve trained pigeons if he had no other way. Thomas also went on Twitter and publicly blasted the NBA for not rewarding his teammates like Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart with All-NBA defensive honors.
This is somehow the work of a bad teammate? Not a freaking chance.
But let’s for a second assume that Broussard has a clue and somebody was bothered by that. If you’re a teammate and decided that you hated that kind of stuff (but let it be known or expressed it under the guise of anonymity), it’s because you’re a selfish and insecure fool, and not because of anything the 5-foot-9 Thomas did or said to upset you.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, I honestly don’t think those players existed here during Thomas’ time in Boston, simply because they would not survive under head coach Brad Stevens or mesh with their desired identity as a team whose success was predicated on their chemistry. You couldn’t watch Isaiah every night — from playing beyond his size, taking big shots (and making them), and becoming the focal point and leader of your undeniable underdog-but-able-to-kick-your-ass mentality — and say that he wasn’t the kind of teammate you wanted on your side.
And while we’re on this, let’s acknowledge the fact that Thomas hardly had any teammates left to allegedly hate him, as the Celtics had a 60 percent roster turnover before they shipped him to Cleveland, with nine of his teammates from a year ago either traded, waived, or released in Ainge’s busiest summer on the job.
If there were teammates that needed him gone, my goodness, does Terry Rozier’s voice and second-year pro Jaylen Brown’s influence carry a lot of weight in that room.
Or, in other words, that would not be anything close to a real reason to trade him.
At the same time, it’s not hard to see what Broussard could be talking about.
Was Thomas arrogant? Yes. But he backed it up, and at his size, you almost had to be arrogant if you wanted to experience even a whiff of legitimate success as a star player. Look at the swagger Allen Iverson dominated the league with during his prime. Thomas was always going to have that chip on his shoulder, especially as the last pick from the 2011 NBA Draft. That’s the kind of chip that’s made Draymond Green, who can tell you the name of every single player that was drafted before him, a seemingly beloved piece of the Warriors’ budding dynasty. But beyond the on-court showmanship, was Thomas honest, specifically when it came to getting him paid? Of course. The dude had sandals that had the infamous Brinks Truck on them. He wore them, too!
But those quirks were as much a part of Thomas’ mental makeup as his game-winning shots and dominant fourth-quarter showings. That bravado was matched only by the humility Thomas showed when showing gratitude for the way his teammates and an entire city rallied around him in tragedy, and played out before your very eyes with some of the best playoff performances you’ve seen from almost any era of Celtics basketball.
Something anonymous sources and weak smear efforts can and will never take away from a scrappy guard that overcame much worse during his run with the Celtics.
Full article @ Anderson: Few things less believable than Isaiah Thomas smear campaign
Source: GreenStreet Blog