Reimer: Recounting Isaiah Thomas’ rapid fall from superstardom to damaged goods
Roughly four months ago, Isaiah Thomas played the game of his life. The then-Celtics point guard exploded for 53 points against the Wizards in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, becoming just the fourth player in franchise history to reach the 50-point plateau in a postseason game. Boston went on to win the contest in overtime, expanding its series lead.
Thomas went through physical hell during the Celtics playoff run. In addition to undergoing two days of dental surgery, he was playing on a bum hip. The injury first occurred in March, when Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Townes stepped on it. Thomas re-aggravated the injury against the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, causing him to miss the final games of the season.Â
But those ailments paled in comparison to the emotional agony he was also facing. Thomasâ€™ 22-year-old sister, Chyna, died in an one-car accident on the eve of the playoffs. But yet, Thomas played in Celticsâ€™ playoff opener, dropping 33 points and six assistants in a losing effort against the Bulls. Prior to the game, Avery Bradley was seen consoling Thomas on the sidelines.
An emotional scene in Boston as Isaiah Thomas will try to play in Game 1 vs. the Bulls pic.twitter.com/SwGSsYZjvN
â€” The Crossover (@TheCrossover) April 16, 2017
Though Thomas had only played in Boston for three seasons, he quickly grabbed a spot among the cityâ€™s pantheon of sports stars. As WEEIâ€™s John Tomase wrote last week, he was the improbable star who made the rebirth of the Celtics possible.
But professional sports is a cold business, and few executives are more calculating than Danny Ainge. The Celtics general manager brags about chiding Red Auerbach for not trading Larry Bird and Kevin McHale when they were nearing the end of their primes. Sentimentality means little to Ainge, who was finally ready to pounce this offseason after dedicating at least three years to collecting assets.Â
His first step was signing forward Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $128 million contract. The acquisition moved the Celtics closer to the Cavaliers, but still left them short. The second domino wound up falling six weeks later, when the Celtics shockingly shipped Thomas to the Cavaliers along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Netsâ€™ 2018 first-round pick in exchange for Kyrie Irving. While Thomas was beloved in Boston, the deal produced little pushback. Irving, the 2012 No. 1 overall pick, made the series-winning shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals and is an Olympic gold medalist. Heâ€™s a legitimate superstar at 25 years old.Â
Though it was painful to see Thomas leave, it was apparent the Celtics were improving themselves for the long-term. Meanwhile, Thomas was presented with the opportunity to play alongside LeBron James in a contract year. It seemed to be a win for all sides involved.Â
That is, until last Friday, when Thomas suddenly became damaged goods. The Cavaliers were reportedly dissatisfied with his physical, holding up the trade for five days. The deal was finalized Wednesday, when Boston sent over a 2020 second-round pick.Â
According to The Ringerâ€™s Kevin Oâ€™Connor, James â€œcooledâ€� on Thomas when it was apparent he could miss substantial time this season. Itâ€™s worth noting James has been mum on Thomasâ€™ arrival, outside of unleashing a Twitter rant against the aforementioned jersey burners.Â
The Celtics were transparent about Thomasâ€™ injury this summer. In an interview with Comcast SportsNet, Ainge acknowledged he could miss the start of the season. But it was believed Thomas would return with months to play, lending him plenty of time to get readyÂ for the playoffs.Â
Now, though, Thomasâ€™ health is in doubt â€“â€“ thanks to the Cavaliersâ€™ amateurism. They publicly shamed Thomas for nearly one week, all for the sake of securing a future second-round pick. And now, Thomas has to play for that franchise, and with a superstar who may not be thrilled about his arrival.
Thereâ€™s plenty of time for Thomas to settle into Cleveland. Some early season wins would probably go a long way towards quelling any hard feelings that might have developed. But Thomas once again finds himself in a position where heâ€™s being doubted. Itâ€™s a familiar spot for the 5-foot-9 point guard who was selected with the last pick in the NBA Draft.Â
It looked like Thomas had arrived. His journey over the last 10 days is a reminder of how fleeting the good times can be.
Full article @ Reimer: Recounting Isaiah Thomas’ rapid fall from superstardom to damaged goods
Source: GreenStreet Blog