Isaiah Thomas

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Tomase: Isaiah Thomas is coming, and Celtics fans should be very, very afraid

John Tomase
November 29, 2017 - 11:24 am
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After their incredible start, the Celtics are showing signs of normalizing. Their defense looks a little less impregnable, their young stars a little less unstoppable. Even without Gordon Hayward, they're talented enough to challenge for a berth in the Finals, but first they must brace for a gathering storm a few hundred miles to their west that goes by a familiar name.

Isaiah.

The King in the Fourth is nearing a return in Cleveland. The Cavs have targeted mid-December, which leaves former Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas only a couple of weeks away from action.

The Cavs have also, as it happens, figured things out. They've won nine straight since a 5-7 start, easily handling the last two teams to beat the Celtics -- the Heat and Pistons -- in the process.

LeBron James is making a run at Russell Westbrook territory, averaging over 28 points and nearly nine rebounds and assists per game. Kevin Love is once again a double-double machine. And that's about it. Derrick Rose looks cooked. Dwyane Wade looks old. Jae Crowder looks slow. Tristan Thompson hasn't played in a month with a calf injury. Their defense remains bottom-three.

It doesn't matter, because James is that good. He needs a running mate, however, and that's where Thomas becomes the Eastern Conference's X-factor, not to mention the man most capable of delaying the Celtics' coronation for a year.

We should not, under any circumstances, underestimate him. Our love affair with Kyrie Irving is understandable, because he's a magician. But lest we forget, Isaiah was pretty special last year, too. And a player fueled by grievance has been stewing since August that the Celtics ditched him after he played through the death of his sister, the loss of his teeth, and a career-threatening hip injury to carry them to the Eastern Conference Finals.

He believed he had finally found the place that believed in him, only to see it cast him aside like everyone else. He believed he could win a title alongside Al Horford and Hayward, but he never got the chance. The emotional bond he forged with Boston will inevitably shatter when he returns in Cavaliers colors.

Celtics fans should feel uneasy. Thomas is keeping score, especially on social media, where he takes every burned jersey or Kyrie-touting headline personally. When ESPN ran a story titled, "Isaiah who? Why Kyrie Irving is Boston's new king of crunch time," you could feel the tremors from the shores of Lake Erie.

"You knows damn well who I am and what I've done!" he shot back via Twitter.

Even when the Celtics were ripping off 16 straight wins, one worry lingered -- let's see what happens when Isaiah comes back.

There's no sense judging a veteran team like Cleveland before New Year's to begin with, but particularly when its second-best player is sitting on the sidelines, and even more particularly when said player is someone who can carry a team and close out games, as we witnessed time and again over his three seasons in Boston.

Celtics fans should know better than anyone not to sell Thomas short, and yet here we are, blithely asserting that Kyrie's better and moving on like the former fan favorite won't yet have a say in who emerges from the Eastern Conference.

"At the end of the day, I'm going to get the last laugh," Thomas said on a video posted to the Player's Tribune detailing his rehab. "I'm going to be able to be who I am, and I'm going to be better than I ever was. . . . That's going to be the day. And it's coming soon."

That's the kind of bravado that made us love Thomas. But now?

We'd be wise to fear him.

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