addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");
WALTHAM, Mass. – You may have watched Wednesday night’s Celtics game and thought to yourself, “That’s not Isaiah Thomas in that No. 4 uniform.”
Brad Stevens was thinking the same thing.
“I didn’t think last night – and I think he would be the first to tell you – I didn’t think he looked like himself.” Stevens said at Thursday morning’s practice.
The numbers back up all of these beliefs. Thomas scored just four points on 2-of-7 shooting and played only 20 minutes.
No one on the inside of the locker room is too concerned with Thomas’ first game back. Stevens, Thomas and the medical staff are all comfortable with the point guard’s health. The root of the problem is the rust that Thomas accumulated during his two weeks off.
“He’s just got to get everything back, get his rhythm back, get his wind back,” teammate Jae Crowder said. “I know the game is probably moving a thousand miles per hour out there with him sitting out two weeks.
“It’ll take a little bit of time. I think this practice will help, and him watching film will help. He’ll be fine.”
The Celtics plan on making adjustments in order to integrate Thomas back into the lineup. Adjustment No. 1, as Stevens relayed to Thomas this morning, is that the point guard doesn’t need to be the focal point of the offense until he’s ready to be such.
“We talked a little bit this morning about some things that he can control so he doesn’t have to worry about coming back and saving the day,” Stevens said. “He just has to worry about fitting in and being a good part of our puzzle, and I think that that should take some heat off of him (so that he doesn’t) feel like he has to do a lot more than that.”
With that being said, the secondary adjustment is that Thomas’ teammates cannot rely on him to create offense all by himself.
“We’ve got to find other ways that we can attack the defense other than just get him in pick-and-rolls when he’s not feeling [like himself],” said Crowder. “Just give him a chance to gradually come back instead of forcing him into it like he was before the injury. We’ve got to work together and make him better as he makes everyone else around him better.”
Such was not the case Wednesday night, hence the rough performance by Thomas. He certainly didn’t look like the guy who averaged 21.4 points per game prior to his lower back injury.
That version of Thomas has not yet returned, but the Celtics expect him to resurface soon. In the meantime, they’ll need to figure out how to be successful as Thomas shakes off his rust.