Boston Celtics

What started out as a harmless, lighthearted Instagram comment about a return to the Boston Celtics turned into a real discussion between Isaiah Thomas and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, Thomas told ESPN.

With the Instagram comment as their icebreaker, Thomas reached out to Ainge, and the two spoke for 15-20 minutes.

“If the opportunity is there, I would just like to let you know that I’d love to come back,” Thomas told Ainge.

It was an idea that Ainge was apparently open to at the time.

But Ainge stressed to Thomas that the Celtics had to figure out the Marcus Smart situation first — Smart was not yet to signed to his four-year, $52 million extension with the Celtics at the time Thomas and Ainge spoke — before they could take things to the next step of their talks. And according to ESPN, Ainge and the Celtics were willing to further their discussion with Thomas. But Thomas accepted his one-year, $2.1 million offer from the Denver Nuggets before that could happen.

Thomas’ inability to be patient and wait things out was to be expected, if nothing else, as Thomas told ESPN that the one-year for the veteran’s minimum offer from the Nuggets was the only firm offer I.T. had over two weeks into NBA free agency.

Something that started with the across-the-board mishandling of his hip injury in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

“If I didn’t play in the playoffs, I’d be OK,” Thomas, who played just 32 games between the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, acknowledged. “I’d be getting paid. I’d be who I am — who I was. But you couldn’t tell me in that moment in time — with everything I was going through — that, OK, I should just sit out. I don’t think Boston went about it the right way as well.

“But at the same time, it was hard for me to sit out. I just lost my sister, one of the closest people in my life. Basketball was the only thing that was going to help me out. I played until I literally couldn’t play anymore. And that was not a good business decision if I was looking in the long term, but I was looking in the ‘right now.’ That’s just what it was.”

The 5-foot-9 Thomas has seemingly come to terms with the reality of his situation, though, and knows that the time to rebuild his worth is now with him. Thanks to this out-of-nowhere chance courtesy of the Nuggets, no less.

Had time been on his side this offseason, however, Thomas says he likely would have returned to Boston.

“[Expletive], I’d have gone back,” Thomas told ESPN. “I don’t hold grudges.”