The Boston Celtics officially parted ways with Isaiah Thomas a little more than a week ago, as the All-Star guard (and some other players) went to the Cleveland Cavaliers for fellow All-Star Kyrie Irving. Irving had his say about the trade in his news conference last week and now, Thomas is slowly starting to share his thoughts about it as well.
First came a video Thomas published on his Instagram account yesterday where he was working out in Cavs gear. Then, today, Thomas wrote a story for The Players’ Tribune in which he gave much more detail about the trade, his affection for Boston, his future with Cleveland and more.
It’s funny, I’d just been celebrating.
When I got the call from Danny, I was leaving the airport — my wife, Kayla, and I were coming back from having celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary. We’d gone to Miami for a couple of days — and now we were back in Seattle, driving home.
I missed the call, must have been doing something in the car. Danny left a text.
“IT, call me when you can.”
Sounds dramatic, but that’s actually a pretty normal text from Danny. Could’ve been about all sorts of things. So I called him back, still driving and not really thinking much of it. He knew I’d been on my trip, so he asked me a few questions about it. I’m sure I asked him how he was, maybe how the family was doing. Again, you know, just that normal sort of talk.
And then somewhere in there, it was just like … it was barely anything. This little pause in the conversation. And that’s when he told me.
“I just traded you.”
“To where.” That’s all I could manage.
“To the Cavaliers, for Kyrie.”
And that’s when, like — man. You ever been on the phone, and someone says something … and then all of a sudden, all you can think about after is, I don’t want to be on the phone anymore? Not even in a rude way. Just, like, your willpower to have a conversation shuts down. That’s what it was like for me in that moment.
But the truth is — those first two reactions I got, from my sons? That was all I needed. All those takes, all the rumors, all the expert analysis going around … and, man, my sons got it more right in a couple of minutes over FaceTime. Everything about that trade, everything that I was feeling in my heart in those moments — they got it down to the only two things that mattered.
One, as my oldest said it: “LeBron James.” Or put another way — I get to come over and join the best team in the East, and try to win a championship alongside the best basketball player in the world.
And two, as my youngest said it: “Sad.” Or put another way — man, man, am I going to miss this city.
Man, am I going to miss being a Celtic.
Next, Thomas details how he is still hurting from the trade and how, in his opinion, the trade was a good lesson for fans of the NBA:
I was thinking about that last year with KD [Kevin Durant] and his free agency — about how people gave him such a hard time for doing what he felt was best for him and his future. How they turned him into a villain, just for doing what was his right to do as a free agent in this league. Suddenly, it was, “Oh, he’s selfish,” or, “Oh, he’s a coward.” Suddenly, just for doing business on his end, and doing right by himself, he was portrayed as this bad guy.
But that’s what I think my trade can show people. I want them to see how my getting traded — just like that, without any warning — by the franchise that I scratched and clawed for, and bled for, and put my everything on the line for? That’s why people need to fix their perspective.
And like I said, there’s no hard feelings. But I just hope that the next time a player leaves in free agency, and anybody wants to jump on him or write a critical story or a nasty tweet about him, maybe now they’ll think twice.
At the same time, though, people gotta understand. Like, even with all of this being said … man … it still hurt. It still hurt bad. And I hope people can understand that when I say it hurt, it isn’t directed at anyone. I’m not saying I was hurt by anyone, or wronged by anyone, or betrayed. I’m just saying, man, I’m only human.
And so when I say this hurts, man — just know that it isn’t because of anything anyone else did. It’s only because of something I did.
I fell in love with Boston.
Thomas doesn’t hold back in his praise for Boston at large, in particular for how the city supported him after his sister, Chyna, died in a car accident days before the 2017 playoffs began:
And that’s why, you know — people ask me a lot about the playoffs last year. About how, even after my sister Chyna passed, I still went out there in Game 1 vs. Chicago and played. But what’s crazy is, the original reason I was going to play, was actually a little different from the reason I ended up playing. At first I thought I was going to play because, honestly, that’s just my mindset, when it comes to basketball. With basketball, I guess it’s just always been, like — no matter what I’d be going through in life … I’ve always known I can go to a basketball court. All I have to do is find one, and I’ll know I’m going to be fine for however long I’m on that court. Because that’s what basketball has always been for me, through my life’s ups and downs. It shields me from everything that I’m going through in life.
And when I arrived at the arena that night, after Chyna had passed — I was thinking, O.K., I just need that to happen. I need this court to be my shield tonight, I need this court to help me forget. But when I got out there? Man, it’s one of those things … I can’t even describe it. The applause that I got, I can still hear it. People had these signs they made, and I can still see them: THIS IS FOR CHYNA. WE <3 ISAIAH. That sort of thing. Then they did a moment of silence, the whole arena, in Chyna’s honor. And it was like … man. I just realized, in that moment, that I didn’t need the court to shield me. I didn’t need to block it all out, and pretend I wasn’t grieving. I didn’t have to be alone in this. The whole arena was right there with me. Honestly, it felt like the whole city of Boston was with me.
And at that point, you know, I think it just kind of hit me, like — of course I’ve gotta play. First of all, I’m going to do it for Chyna, and for my family. But then I’m also going to do it for my city. ’Cause what they’re showing me right now, is all I needed tonight: to know I’m not alone. They’re showing me that they’re going through the same thing I’m going through right now. They’re showing me that I’m one of them, and that we’re in this together. So let’s be in this together.
And for two and a half years, man, we were.
Lastly, Thomas shifts his focus to playing alongside LeBron James and working with him to lift the Cavs to a fourth straight NBA Finals berth:
I’mma just say this here, point-blank, to get it over with — and then you can go ahead and post it on whatever bulletin boards you want to: You are not going to want to mess with the Cavs this year. This is going to be a great year to be a Cavs fan, a great year. And I’m excited.
Of course, being on the team the East runs through now … I won’t lie, it’s some mixed emotions. Because that was our goal in Boston for so long — get through the Cavs, and win the East. And I know that’s still Boston’s goal. But now, it’s like, I’m the one who has to stop them from reaching it. And that’s tough. Because come playoff time, if and when we have to face the Celtics … I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. But that won’t just be “the team I used to be on.” That’s my old team. The elite offense, the 30-some national TV games, the becoming a place where free agents want to come and play — I feel like I helped build that. I helped create that.
And come playoffs, all of a sudden, it’ll be like, O.K., now destroy it.
It’s sad, man. It’s just sad.
But I didn’t come to Cleveland to lose.