Isaiah Thomas Says He Would Return to Celtics, But Is He a Fit?


Isaiah Thomas has never had it as good as when he was with the Boston Celtics and Brad Stevens. Perhaps Thomas is coming to realize it.

Thomas ran into NBC Sports Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely in an airport on Tuesday. Blakely wrote on NBC Sports Boston’s Instagram account that Thomas said he was “in a good place health-wise” after struggling last season with a hip issue.

Thomas then responded to the Instagram post: “Tell Boston I’ll come back for a year LOL… Good to see you. Miss my Boston fam!”

Was he kidding? Hard to say. But it’s not unrealistic to think he wants to go back to Boston.

The Celtics dealt Thomas with a package of picks and players to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a trade for Kyrie Irving.

Because of Thomas’ hip surgery, he did not play for the Cavaliers until weeks into the season. Then after 15 games with the team, they dealt him to the Los Angeles Lakers, reportedly because he wasn’t a good fit in the locker room.

While Thomas is no longer with the Cavaliers, Irving is, of course, with the Celtics. He also dealt with some injuries, which breathed life into the careers of Marcus Smart and, in particular, Terry Rozier. The Celtics can feel very comfortable with their roster of guards — unless they end up losing one of them this offseason. Smart is a restricted free agent, and seems to be struggling to get a big contract. If that continues to be true, the Celtics would match a humble offer. If Smart drums up interest, he might be gone. Rozier could enter free agency next offseason, which makes him a potential trade chip this offseason. Irving has been reluctant to commit to the Celtics long-term (which is the most financially responsible decision), which could also make him a trade chip.

If the Celtics’ backcourt stays the same this offseason, Thomas probably isn’t a fit. He and Rozier are too similar. Thomas was, at one point, more dangerous than Rozier, but Thomas seemed to lose a step last season. The Celtics have enough talent — and not enough cap space — to accommodate him. However, if they shuffle their talent (for example: by trading Irving for Kawhi Leonard), then they might end up with a need at guard, which would open an opportunity for Thomas.

Thomas may have talked his way out of Boston by repeatedly asking the Celtics to back up the Brinks trucks, referring to contract negotiations when Thomas probably had leverage to ask for a max deal. He was coming off a season in 2016-17 when he had 28.9 points per game, 5.9 assists per game, a 46.3 field goal percentage and 37.9 three-point percentage. In the playoffs, he was dubbed “The King in the Fourth” for his efforts in closing out games during the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Things have changed. In 2017-18, Thomas averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 assists, and was largely irrelevant for both teams.

It’s no wonder he wants to return to Boston where he lived his glory days.