Boston Celtics

By Ty Anderson,

Isaiah Thomas is still having a hard time letting go of what transpired between he and the Boston Celtics.

In the immediate aftermath of the trade that sent the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (and more) to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan (and more), Thomas took to Twitter to talk about a lack of loyalty by team executives when it comes to star players.

In defense of Thomas, he was not the only player to call the Raptors out for this cold-hearted business move, and there’s no doubt that DeRozan gave everything he could to the Raptors. DeRozan’s Instagram story posted overnight (before the deal became official) spoke to similar heartbreak and his frustrations with the Raptor front office’s two-faced decision making.

But in the case of Thomas, the timeline officially no longer makes anything even resembling sense.

After playing through a devastating hip injury until he physically couldn’t — and suffering an unbelievable personal tragedy along the way with the death of his sister — there is no way around saying that Thomas gave everything he could to the Celtics. He thought his efforts would be rewarded with a max contract. The Slow Grind was gonna come with a Brinks truck.

Instead, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge used Thomas as the biggest piece of a trade that saw the C’s upgrade at point guard and worsened Thomas’ situation as he was an unhealthy, ill-fitting failed piece of Cleveland’s puzzle.

But Thomas’ disdain for Ainge and the Celtics was brought to light before the Cavaliers found out he wasn’t the same player.

“I might not ever talk to Danny [Ainge] again,” Thomas said during an appearance on the Road Trippin’ podcast before the start of the 2017-18 season. “That might not happen. I’ll talk to everybody else. But what [Ainge] did, knowing everything I went through, you don’t do that, bro. That’s not right. I’m not saying eff you. But every team in this situation comes out a year or two later and says, ‘We made a mistake.’ That’s what they’ll say, too.”

Ainge countered by saying he wasn’t sure what the Celtics owed Thomas for his two and a half years in town.

Add in some nonsensical tribute video drama, and it seemed as if Thomas and the Celtics had a real rivalry brewing.

Then Thomas actually returned to Boston, and it was all love.

“I love this city. I love this organization. They’ve given me an opportunity to be who I always wanted to be, and I can’t thank them enough, so there’s no hard feelings to anybody in this city or in this organization,” Thomas said upon his first visit back to TD Garden last season. “I’m glad I’m back. There’s genuine love.”

That genuine love was for Ainge back then, too, as Thomas said he and Danny texted each other and moved forward.

It even recently hit the point where Thomas openly talked about his willingness to return to Boston on a one-year deal.

Now, and with Thomas officially with the Nuggets on a veteran minimum deal, he’s back to talking about his Boston exit.

Thomas can feel how he wants to feel — and nobody has any right to tell him what to say or tweet, or how to feel — but constantly reopening this wound seems counterintuitive to all involved. Ainge and the Celtics will always want to recall Thomas’ time with the Celtics as a positive experience, especially given the fact that it was his production and personality that propelled the Celtics back to contention. And Thomas also helped lure both Gordon Hayward and Al Horford to Boston.

They’ll show that appreciation when Thomas and the Nuggets come to the Garden this season, where a standing ovation, video tribute, and applause from over 18,000 people in the stands — including Ainge — awaits Thomas.

And maybe then everything will be forgiven and left in the past.

For good this time.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.