Boston Celtics

Bean: Isaiah Thomas was the unlikeliest of heroes, and we shouldn't forget him

Bean: Isaiah Thomas was the unlikeliest of heroes, and we shouldn't forget him

Whenever this golden age in Boston sports ends, Isaiah Thomas will be an afterthought. That says more about this time in Boston sports than it does about Isaiah Thomas. 

Often times, cities are lucky to have one or two star players between all of their professional sports teams. They’re typically acquired by drafting the player high, giving them a boatload of money in free agency, or trading a ton to get them. 

Thomas was none of those. He was the last pick of his draft and was traded from his second team to the Celtics for a mediocre package, because his stock to that point was mediocre. 

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There’s a common attitude for professional athletes who were in Thomas’ place. When players reach the pros but have not yet become stars, or even starters, at least part of them laments the lack of opportunity. If only someone gave them the keys, they’d blossom. 

That’s easier said than done and pro sports are littered with guys who were given the opportunity and didn’t take it. Not Thomas. He went from Sixth Man of the Year runner-up in 2014-15 to a starter the next season. It was in that season that he earned the first of his two consecutive All-Star reserve honors.

Most importantly, he served as the star Boston would use to recruit other stars (and eventually, be traded for the biggest star Boston has had since the Brooklyn trade). Without Isaiah Thomas, perhaps Al Horford signs somewhere else. All the love in Gordon Hayward’s heart for Brad Stevens might not have been enough to land Hayward had there not been a strong group of players in place. Credit Thomas for that.

And while Thomas improved from year to year, it still took time for opposing GMs to fully buy in. Remember, Jackie MacMullan has said Danny Ainge tried to trade Thomas for a lottery pick at the 2016 draft but had no takers. One year later, Thomas is part of a package that netted one of the best players in the league in Kyrie Irving. 

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that the guy who did all that stuff for the Celtics just got dumped to the Cavaliers. People forget that Thomas is short (he is; swear to God, look it up) and was drafted last, so now a guy who has learned he is plenty capable of proving people wrong can now make the Celtics his next target. God, these C’s-Cavs games are going to rule. 

You need about nine Mount Rushmores to properly give the last 16 years of Boston sports their due. Thomas isn’t on the first one, or the second, or the third. Yet he wasn’t expected to be on any of them. He was just the guy for whom the C’s traded Marcus Thornton and what would become the 28th overall pick. 

When Wyc Grousbeck said “fireworks” in 2014, Isaiah Thomas was the last person anybody could have had in mind. On Tuesday, those fireworks finally came, and they did so as a result of what was at the time a minor trade. Credit Danny Ainge for having the foresight to believe Thomas was capable of getting better. Credit Thomas for being better than any of us could have expected. 

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Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

CANTON, Mass. – There is no way around it.

When conversations shift towards the best teams in the NBA, the Boston Celtics are one of the first teams talked about.

With that elevated status comes increased expectations, the kind that will kick into full gear when the team begins practice.

But within those expectations is the reality that despite the increased talent pool Brad Stevens will have to work with this season, there will still be an adjustment period.

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Increased expectations and maintaining a sense of urgency while being patient with the team gelling, will be among the biggest challenges awaiting Boston this season.

But head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t believe it will be an issue his team will contend with this season.

“Our expectations haven’t changed so there’s no balance,” Stevens said. “You do what you do, work every day to try to be the best you can be. We know what goal is in Boston; that’s stated pretty clearly with the banners that hang above us. Ultimately that has nothing to do with how good we become tomorrow and the next day. We just focus on the process.”

And that process begins in earnest on Tuesday with the first day of training camp.

“We’re looking forward to getting to work as a full team,” Stevens said.

Despite having a team with 10 new players, the expectations have not been any higher than they are now for Stevens who is entering his fifth season as Boston’s head coach.

He has a roster that includes a trio of All-Stars in Al Horford (4), Gordon Hayward (1) and Kyrie Irving (4), with a combined nine All-Star appearances among them.

Boston also has a talented but youthful roster outside of their Big Three that includes second-year wing Jaylen Brown and first-round pick Jayson Tatum not to mention returners Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier who will both be competing for prominent roles in the Celtics’ rotation this season.

The additions made by Boston should help balance out an offense that will continue to look for ways to score.

“We have a lot of new pieces,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “But I feel like we’re moving in the right direction as a team.”

Part of that progress involves not only getting the new guys up to speed, but also internal growth from among the handful of players back from last season’s squad.

The most talked about returnee on Monday was Marcus Smart, who comes into training camp having lost nearly 20 pounds.

Smart said he weighed 223 points after having weighed himself earlier on Monday, which is down from his playing weight of last season which hovered around the 240-pound mark.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said the organization talked to Smart about the need for him to lose weight this summer.

Smart agreed.

The added weight began to bother him during the playoffs, leading to increased back pain and sleepless nights.

“I remember times putting on my shirt and tucking my stomach in because I didn’t like how it looked,” Smart said. “And that pain was causing me, I was always tired, I wasn’t as explosive and I was exerting so much energy to go out there every day and do the things I been doing my whole life. I wasn’t too fond of that. I knew I had to change.”

And when it comes to the Celtics heading into this season, change is indeed an appropriate description for this team.

But for newcomer Kyrie Irving, dealing with change is nothing new.

When LeBron James returned to Cleveland three years ago, it was expected to usher in a wave of victories from the outset.

Instead, the Cavs opened the season with a 5-6 start before getting on track and advancing to the first of three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.

“It definitely, definitely attributes to figuring out how patient you are at that moment,” Irving said when I asked him about that slow start in Cleveland. That takes a while. You have to be very patient in your approach. I speak on that pretty often. So it’s not trying to figure out one thing or a few things in one day or after one game. It’s going to come in waves, man. These ups and downs we’re about to face as a team, as a collective group it’s going to be fairly interesting.  It’ll really echo in terms of our identity, how we respond. I’m looking forward to that aspect.”

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LeBron James, Gregg Popovich speak out against Donald Trump on media day

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LeBron James, Gregg Popovich speak out against Donald Trump on media day

The flack that Donald Trump caught for his comments about athletes didn’t end after the NFL games, as LeBron James and Gregg Popovich were among the NBA figures to speak out against him during media day appearances Monday. 

James, who called Trump a “bum” for revoking Steph Curry’s invitation to the White House, said he doesn’t regret his choice of words at all. He clarified that he and his friends call each other bums, but that he would never call Trump his friend. 

“He doesn’t understand the power that he has, for being the leader of this beautiful country. He doesn’t understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the President of the United States for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement,” James said. “He doesn’t understand that, and that’s what makes me more sick than anything, that this is the number-one position in the world.

“And we are at a time where the most powerful position in the world has an opportunity to bring us closer together as people, and inspire the youth, and put the youth at ease on saying that, “It is OK for me to walk down the street and not be judged because of the color of my skin or because of my race.” And he has no recognition of that. And he doesn’t even care. Maybe he does, but he doesn’t care.”

Popovich, who said that the USA is currently “an embarrassment,” said that Trump is “comical.”

“I thought it was comical that [Curry’s invite] was rescinded, because [the Warriors] weren’t going anyway,” Popovich said. “It’s like a sixth-grader who’s gonna have a party in his backyard and he finds out somebody might not come so he disinvites him.

“But again I think, the behavior, although it’s disgusting, it’s also comical.”