Isaiah Thomas Feels the Love in Emotional Return to Boston
BOSTON – At some point during the 2016-17 campaign, Isaiah Thomas bought a special pair of green and gold sneakers. He decided those would be the sneakers that he would wear during the 2017 NBA Finals should the Boston Celtics make it that far.
The C’s, however, would wind up falling just short of a trip to the championship round that season, losing to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a five-game, Eastern Conference Finals series, and later that summer, IT was traded to the Cavs.
Despite switching teams from the Celtics to the Cavs, to the Los Angeles Lakers and now to the Nuggets, those sneakers never left Thomas’ possession. He hung onto them as they collected dust over the past year and a half, waiting for the perfect opportunity to break them out.
The opportune moment finally arrived Monday night, as Thomas returned to TD Garden to play for the first time since the trade. After donning his white and blue Nuggets uniform, he laced up those prized green and gold Celtics-themed kicks and hit the parquet floor for his highly-anticipated homecoming game."I knew coming back here I was going to wear something Celtics green," the charismatic point guard said with a smile.
Thomas wasn’t sure if he was going to get the chance to actually put those sneakers to use Monday night, given that he had recently been removed from Denver’s rotation shortly after returning from the hip injury that had sidelined him for most of the last two seasons. Though, much to the delight of the crowd at TD Garden, Nuggets coach Mike Malone put him in the game for a stint that lasted six minutes and 50 seconds from the latter part of the first quarter into the early portion of the second frame.
As soon as Thomas entered the action, he started playfully trash-talking with his former teammates. His main target was his good friend Jaylen Brown, who had been assigned to defend the two-time All-Star.
“He always thought he could guard me, but I told him I need six hands around me. I need three people to guard me,” Thomas joked. “But it was fun. Those guys are brothers to me. Those guys are always, and will always, be family. This whole organization, the coaching staff, everybody that I was here with those three years are always going to be family and be special in my heart.”
Thomas missed his only two field goal attempts of the game, but just having the opportunity to play again on the parquet floor provided him with more than enough fulfillment.
“I didn’t think I missed in this building, “Thomas said with a laugh of his 0-for-2 performance. “But I was just glad that I was able to get out there and play no matter how long I played. It was fun to be able to do that in front of the best fans in the world.”
The most enjoyable aspect of the entire experience was what those fans gave him during the first timeout of the first quarter: love. When the action stopped at the 7:06 mark of the opening frame, a Thomas tribute was played on the TD Garden Jumbotron. He gazed up smiling, tears welling in his eyes, and let the thunderous applause of every standing fan in the building rain down upon him.
“That was good. That was special,” said Thomas. “I wish my family was here to see that. I was emotional. I almost cried.”
IT went on to add that it was without a doubt one of the greatest moments of his basketball career.
“It’s up there,” he said. “I mean, I got my college jersey retired – that was big. But this is… you can’t even describe that feeling. My (Nuggets) teammates felt that, and they weren’t even a part of that (Celtics experience). It was big-time. I appreciate [the fans and the organization] for doing that, especially for not being able to be in a situation where I’m playing right now. This type of love is something that I wanted, that I needed, and I’m glad I was able to come back.”