READING, Mass. – As Isaiah Thomas stood before a media scrum in the middle of his first basketball camp in New England, it was hard not to notice the Citi corporate backdrop behind his 5-foot-9 frame. And as you walk around gym at Reading Memorial High school, another sign with Body Armor SuperDrink, Hard Rock Café, Wilson and Welch’s Fruit Snacks among other sponsors, adorn a nearby wall.
Thomas’ rags to riches story is impressive when you stick to what he has accomplished on the basketball court.
But when you factor in the growing number of sponsors that have jumped on the Thomas bandwagon since he arrived in Boston, it’s clear his reach extends far beyond being just another player in the NBA.
Thomas will be the first to acknowledge that the perception of Boston and the reality that he has experienced in increasing his brand and overall awareness, are not one and the same.
“Ever since I’ve been here, people here have shown me nothing but love,” Thomas told CSNNE.com recently. “I know I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in, and I’m thankful that Danny [Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations] went and got me. Coming here has really been the best thing to happen for me, both as a player and as a person.
Thomas added, “Being a Celtic is something special; something that I don’t take for granted.”
The evolution of Thomas from the last player selected in the 2011 NBA draft, to being a sought-after player for the most storied franchise in NBA history, is the kind of Hollywood script that would become the lining to some hot shot producer’s trash can because it’s just not believable.
And yet it is indeed the story of Isaiah Thomas’ life, one that has made him a player whose magnetic smile, upbeat demeanor and talent have elevated him to a level few would have envisioned.
For Thomas, he sees the increased interest he has generated being about one thing: winning.
Prior to his first game with the Celtics, they were 20-22.
Thomas’ arrival in the middle of the 2014-15 concluded with Boston getting to the playoffs by winning 20 of its final 30 regular-season, which was a win total that was the third-highest in the league in that span of time.
And last season, Thomas’ first full season in Boston, the Celtics (48-34) finished in a four-way tie for the third-best best record in the Eastern Conference.
“Everything has gone up since I became a Celtic, and that goes with winning,” Thomas told CSNNE.com. “When you win and you’re seen a lot more, things start to happen for you. That says a lot about this organization and where I stand.”
Thomas’ standing as both a favorite of fans and corporate America isn’t all that surprising to Celtics officials.
“What makes Boston different than a lot of markets is how fans embrace the players and not just from a talent perspective, but from their personalities and the intangibles that they bring,” Rich Gotham, president of the Celtics, told CSNNE.com. “That’s what endears players to the Boston market and why fans follow them so closely. It affords them opportunities. A guy like Isaiah Thomas is a great example; we knew fans would love the guy. We knew what a competitor he was. We knew with him being a smaller guy, he was going to be the underdog-personality that fans like.”
Added Thomas: “People liked me a little bit when I played for those other teams and back home as well. But ever since I got on the Celtics, it skyrocketed. Everywhere I go people notice me and that says a lot because I blend in with everybody; I’m short just like everybody.”
While Thomas is admittedly short in stature, he continues to grow into a giant pitch man ranging from the shoe contract he signed with Nike last fall, to Citi, Good Humor Ice cream and Slim Jim beef jerky, just to name a few.
“It’s a blessing,” Thomas said of the uptick in endorsement opportunities. “I dreamed of things like this; for people to come for me for things like this … it’s a surreal moment.”
Thomas adds [seemingly on cue], “I’m excited for Citi … and everybody who is trying to partner with me.”
David Ortiz and Andrew Benintendi are of of the lineup as the Red Sox close out their four-game series, and 11-game road trip, with a matinee (1:10 p.m.) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Benintendi was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday. He sustained a sprained knee while running the bases in the seventh inning of an eventual 11-inning loss to the Rays on Wednesday night. He had MRI Thursday morning and the Red Sox medical staff will review the results when the team returns to Boston.
It’s a day off for Ortiz, who will be replaced at DH by Hanley Ramirez, who had the night off Wednesday. Travis Shaw starts at first base.
With Benintendi out, Chris Young, who came off the DL on Monday, will start in left field. Left-hander Drew Pomeranz (10-9, 2.95 ERA) is on the mound for the Red Sox, who are trying to take three of four from the Rays to finish the trip 8-3. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (8-5, 3.63) starts for the Rays.
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Chris Young LF
Aaron Hill 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Bryan Holaday C
Drew Pomeranz LHP
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller 1B
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison DH
Scott Souza RF
Mike Mahtook LF
Luke Maile C
Jake Odorizzi RHP
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Red Sox said Thursday that they still don't have a definitive diagnosis on Andrew Benintendi's injured left knee -- but they know enough to place the rookie outfielder on the disabled list.
Benintendi underwent an MRI Thursday morning and the results were being sent back to the Red Sox medical staff in Boston -- led by team orthopedist Dr. Peter Asnis - to be reviewed.
Marco Hernadnez was recalled from Pawtucket to take Benintendi's spot on the roster.
"The initial read down here was enough to place him on the disabled list,'' said John Farrell. "To what severity the injury is, I don't have that exactly. That will be determined after the review by Dr. Asnis and people back in Boston.''
Benintendi injured his knee on the basepaths in the seventh inning of Wednesday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay. The outfielder attempted to elude a tag and return to second base when he wrenched his knee and rolled his ankle.
Asked if Benintendi's injury could be season-ending, Farrell said: "That's probably too early to tell. We're hope that it's not. We've just got to wait and see what comes out of this. And then depending on the findings, what is the safest thing for Andrew to get him back on the field. Optimistically, it's still this year.''
Farrell said there's little swelling and that Benintendi slept fairly well. He also noted that the ankle -- which he rolled -- isn’t a problem.
"Those are the positives,'' he said.
Boston has used seven players in left field this year -- Benintendi, Chris Young, Brock Holt, Blake Swihart, Rusney Castillo, Ryan LaMarre and Bryce Brentz.
Benintendi, Young, Swihart and Holt have all spent time on the DL, leading the manager to refer to the position as a "kind of a Bermuda triangle unfortunately...it's been little bit of a dark hole.''
Farrell said Young will get the majority of playing time in left, according to Farrell. Holt will also see some playing time, though he won't necessarily play against all right-handers.
Hernandez, meanwhile, will serve as another utility option in the infield.
"We'll mix and match out there,' said Farrell. "But CY will probably get a good portion of the at-bats [in left].’’
Farrell added that, regardless of who gets the playing time in left, the Sox need others in the lineup to step forward.
"We need guys to revert back to their normal contributions,'' Farrell said. "We've been in a dry spell of late...We've got a few guys who are in a little bit of rut since the All-Star break.''
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is an obvious example, having gone just 10-for-41 on the long road trip. Jackie Bradley is another who's slumping, with just six hits in his last 36 at-bats. Finally, Travis Shaw is 3-for-20.