Reimer: Isaiah Thomas has done nothing wrong after leaving Celtics

Alex Reimer
January 04, 2018 - 10:58 am

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

The vitriol being spewed at Isaiah Thomas for requesting the Celtics delay his tribute video is bizarre. Though the Cavaliers visited the T.D. Garden Wednesday, Thomas, who returned from a hip injury one day earlier, did not play. The point guard said he wants to delay the video, because he hopes his family can be in attendance to see it live. Sounds reasonable enough. 

But according to most of my colleagues in the media, and some hardened fans, Thomas is acting like an egomaniac. The Cavaliers’ next visit to Boston is Feb. 11, when the Celtics plan to retire Paul Pierce’s jersey. That’s supposed to be Pierce’s day, and apparently, 90 seconds of it can’t be devoted to showing a video about Thomas on the jumbotron during a random timeout in the first half. 

There’s an element of fatigue when it comes to Thomas kvetching about the Celtics. He’s continuously talked about his disappointment when he was traded to the Cavaliers last August in exchange for Kyrie Irving. In a Players’ Tribune essay, Thomas wrote about playing after the passing of his sister last season, and decision to take the court in the playoffs with a bad hip. The injury delayed the trade for almost one week, transforming Thomas into damaged goods. 

Professional sports are a tough business, but that doesn’t mean athletes must become cyborgs. Thomas helped build the Celtics back into a championship contender and played a big role in the recruitment of prized free agents Al Horford and Gordon Hayward. As stated in his essay, he hoped to ascend to superstardom in Boston, like Tom Brady or David Ortiz. Instead, Thomas just laid the groundwork. Now Irving will reap the rewards. 

General manager Danny Ainge isn’t beholden to Thomas and made the right decision to trade him. Irving, 25, is a superior player and could lead the Celtics to a championship. Thomas, who stands at 5-foot-9 and already has damaged hips, has limitations to his game. The Celtics made the correct move long-term. 

But it’s easy to be rational when you’re removed from the situation. Thomas is far from the first person who’s ever allowed personal anguish to cloud his perception. From the outside, it seemed petty for Thomas to threaten to never speak with Ainge again. But how many times have you made nonsensical statements out of anger? I, for one, have disavowed nearly all of my family members and close friends in fits of rage. But I reneged, just like Thomas. He revealed Wednesday he’s spoken with Ainge via text message. “We’re good,” Thomas told reporters.

We crave honesty from athletes, which is exactly what Thomas has delivered. Last month, he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols he would not have played in the playoffs if he could go back in time. It’s a natural feeling to have. Thomas sacrificed his health for the Celtics, and in return, got traded. He’s being human, not petulant. 

It’s apparent Thomas still holds love for the Celtics. He’s said as much. When fans acknowledged Thomas with an ovation Wednesday, he smiled and waved. All of the acrimony became an afterthought. 

It can take a while to get over a breakup. Now, after sitting on the sidelines for four months, Thomas is back on the court with a new team. Words said out of anger shouldn’t cloud his legacy. 

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