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Anderson: Isaiah Thomas wants to destroy the Celtics, but I'm still a fan

Ty Anderson
September 06, 2017 - 7:37 pm

The aftermath of The Big Three’s exit -- first to Miami in the case of Ray Allen and then to Brooklyn for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett -- made it hard to be a Celtics fan.

As difficult as it was to take a Kris Humphries-Keith Bogans-MarShon Brooks introductory press conference as anything more than a cruel joke or something their families signed them up for as a birthday gift, it was even harder to root for a team designed to lose. That was something that Boston as a sports city has always felt somewhat uncomfortable with, too, especially in this modern era where there’s been enough titles won between the four teams that they’re actually ranked in terms of how entertaining or exciting they were.

Imagine that last part for a minute or two if you will, Milwaukee.

But now you were actually supposed to sit there, invest two and a half hours of your day, and want to lose? Yeah, no thanks, I’ll watch some reruns of literally anything else instead. Your indifference or refusal to watch what was expected to be a massive rebuild wasn’t even you being a frontrunner, either, but rather recognizing the pride that The Big Three helped you reconnect with during their brief time together, and realizing you couldn’t emotionally invest in something so against your fiber as a Celtics fan. 

It was not hard, however, to be an instant fan of Isaiah Thomas, the scrappy bench piece that arrived to Boston and took the idea of losing for high lottery picks personally.

But forget just losing; The 28-year-old Thomas took everything personally. It was why he was a perfect fit for a city that still somehow remains fixated on its underdog status, particularly in the modern NBA, where 17 banners are often no match for warm weather cities. In a league short on connections to the real world, Thomas seemed relatable. He was the answer to somebody saying that you couldn't do something or that you didn't have the skills to accomplish your goals. It was Thomas’ on-court swagger and a daring doubt-me-again attitude that endeared him to Boston. But most importantly, it was his ability to almost single handedly restore your pride in this franchise -- much like the way that Allen, Garnett, and Pierce did during their time with the Celtics -- that made him such a compelling figure from start to finish during his two and a half year run in town.

Everything was a slight, and everything was a challenge, and perhaps none were greater than the ones he encountered in his final days of that unexpected run in the Hub, which ended with him traded to Cleveland for the younger, healthier, taller Kyrie Irving.

“It’s not that I don’t understand [the trade]. Of course I get it: This is a business. Danny is a businessman, and he made a business move,” Thomas wrote in his farewell to Boston for The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday. “I don’t agree with it, just personally, and I don’t think the Boston Celtics got better by making this trade. But that’s not my job. That’s Danny’s. And it’s a tough job, and he’s been really good at it.”

This was surely the more tame version of what the 5-foot-9 Thomas said to Celtics president Danny Ainge when he called him to inform him that he had been traded.

Even in Cleveland, and paired with the best player in the world in LeBron James in a contract year that could give him a future max deal if healthy, Thomas remains bitter that he was moved from “the franchise that he scratched and clawed for, and bled for, and put his everything on the line for” and wants his trade to serve as a lesson for everybody that questions a player’s loyalty. It’s also obvious that Thomas feels wronged by the Celtics, even if he’s openly said he doesn’t believe that to be the case, and it’s clear that deep down he views himself as simply used by the Celtics when it came to his inclusion in meetings and recruitment pitches that helped the club add All-Star talents like Al Horford and Gordon Hayward.

It was when the club added those pieces that Thomas finally felt that he was where he wanted and deserved to be as the centerpiece of a championship-contending club.

“I’m the one who has to stop [the Celtics] from reaching [their goals]. And that’s tough. Because come playoff time, if and when we have to face the Celtics … I don’t know, it’s hard to explain,” Thomas said. “But that won’t just be “the team I used to be on.” That’s my old team. The elite offense, the 30-some national TV games, the becoming a place where free agents want to come and play — I feel like I helped build that.

“I helped create that.”

Now, it’s his to ruin, particularly in the second or third-round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

“I’mma just say this here, point-blank, to get it over with — and then you can go ahead and post it on whatever bulletin boards you want to: You are not going to want to mess with the Cavs this year,” Thomas said of his new team, which has won the East in three straight seasons. “This is going to be a great year to be a Cavs fan, a great year.

“And I’m excited.”

Not just excited for a new opportunity with LeBron, but to also be the one to more-than-personally destroy what he believes he helped create in Boston, of course.

And yet, I still can’t bring myself to say that I’m not a fan of Thomas, which is bound to at some point this season make it hard to be a Celtics fan.

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