The situation that the Celtics find themselves in nearly two years after dealing Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving almost feels a little like karma. When the Celtics dealt IT immediately after he emotionally and physically sacrificed everything that he could for the organization, it was seen as the ultimate sign that loyalty in the NBA rarely exists and almost always has a limit. Now, the Celtics could potentially find themselves on the other end of that reality this summer if Kyrie decides to go back on his promise of re-signing in Boston.
Should Kyrie decide to leave this summer, the Celtics will have have holes to fill at the guard position, especially with Terry Rozier essentially killing any chance of himself becoming the heir apparent to the starting role. One name that has been thrown out there many times in Celtics social media circles within the last couple of weeks is none other than Isaiah Thomas himself. However, just because the fanbase misses him and he holds no grudges against the organization, does that really mean they should consider bringing him back in some capacity?
While it’s been clear for a while now that the Celtics won the trade in which IT was shipped to Cleveland, the deal could end up being all for nothing if Kyrie walks this summer. In fact, the deal could end up being one that hurts the Celtics in the long term if free agents down the road see the team’s treatment of IT as a reason not to consider Boston. Funnily enough, IT himself isn’t one of those guys. Isaiah has reiterated time and time again that he doesn’t hold any grudges and that he is open to returning to Boston despite being so cold-heartedly dealt back in 2017.
Without putting much thought into it, the idea of IT returning to town sounds fantastic. Back in 2017, questions loomed about whether the Celtics should "back up the brinks truck" for a nearly 30 year old point guard despite his status as an MVP vote-getter. Now, thanks to two years of injuries, rehabbing and a lack of opportunity, the Celtics could potentially bring him in on a very team-friendly deal. If he truly held no grudges against the organization and was able to buy into a backup role - and excel in doing so - then the scenario could play out in a storybook type of fashion.
However, IT isn’t that MVP vote-getter anymore, and there would be far more potential for disappointment if he returned than for him to excel and build upon his storied legacy in Boston. Since leaving Boston, Thomas has played just 44 games combined for the Cavaliers, Lakers and Nuggets and he ended this year out of the rotation in Denver. When he did play, he didn’t look much at all like his old self as his best shooting splits in any of those stops were the 38%/33% splits that he posted in Los Angeles with the Lakers. Even if IT returning to his old stomping grounds came with no locker room or chemistry issues, there’s simply just a better chance than not that he wouldn’t live up to the expectations of the fanbase with his play on the court.
As things stand now, IT has seemingly accepted and moved past getting dealt from Boston and has left the door open to returning down the line. Boston fans remember his time here with no bad memories and nothing but love and adoration for him as a person and player. He did nothing but exceed expectations in his time as a Celtic. With nothing but mutual love between him and the fanbase, and no more tension existing in the relationship between him and the organization, I say why risk ruining that? Why risk being disappointed in his return or having his return make his time as a Celtic any less perfect than it already is as things stand?
I hope that the Celtics and IT both leave the door open for an eventual reunion, but don’t consider jumping back into things now. I would love for Isaiah to retire a Celtic one day even though we probably don’t deserve that, but for right now, that reunion isn’t in the best interest of either party. If Isaiah is going to make it back into NBA relevance again, he needs a sizeable opportunity somewhere without too much pressure or too much of a spotlight on him. Unfortunately, Boston can’t really offer him that. Between the team’s championship aspirations and the expectations and attention from the fanbase that his return would come with, Boston is actually quite the opposite of the situation IT needs on his next team.
As someone who loves IT as much as the next Celtics fan, wants to see him succeed again, and wants to remember his time in Boston without any disappointment, I do not think the Celtics should consider bringing him back at this time.
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