The Boston Celtics miss another opportunity to bring Isaiah Thomas back

Isaiah Thomas #31 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Isaiah Thomas #31 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics continued their confusing stretch of basketball this season with a hard-fought loss to the Golden State Warriors. Boston looked lifeless for stretches of the game, particularly in the first half, and allowed the Warriors the build a 20 point lead in the second quarter. While the C’s would eventually fight their way back, and even took the lead at one point early in the fourth, their struggles early on once again came back to haunt them.

Boston also found themselves without five players in this one due to illness (four COVID cases, one non-COVID), and you have to wonder whether the Celtics would have pulled out a victory if they weren’t shorthanded. Regardless, every team around the league is dealing with COVID currently, and it cannot be used as an excuse for losing games.

While the Celtics front office doesn’t seem too inclined to pick up an extra player or two through the NBA’s hardship exception, other teams around the league notably have. One move Celtics fans have wanted to see for some time was the return of beloved point guard Isaiah Thomas, especially after his 42 point outburst for the Denver Nuggets G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Those dreams were quickly crushed on Thursday afternoon when it was announced the Los Angeles Lakers were using their hardship exception to add Thomas to their squad. Thomas responded with a 19 point performance in his first outing for the Lakers, and it’s safe to say the Celtics could have used those 19 points against Golden State last night. Instead, the Boston Celtics missed another opportunity to bring Thomas back to Boston.

The Boston Celtics really could have used Isaiah Thomas right now

It’s been clear all season long the Celtics have had a lack of scoring on their roster. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are usually good for 20+ points a night, but after them nothing is guaranteed. Guys like Marcus Smart, Dennis Schroder, Al Horford, and Josh Richardson have been solid occasionally, but you can’t count on them to produce on a nightly basis. Adding Thomas would have filled a big need for Boston, and cost them virtually nothing.

Thomas’ calling card has always been scoring, and it probably always will be. He will never be a solid defensive player, but Boston certainly held their own when he was leading them deep into the playoffs five seasons ago. Plus, Boston already has enough solid defensive players on their roster as is. What they really need is another scorer or two.

Now this isn’t to say that Thomas is the same player he once was, as that’s certainly not the case. The hip injury that derailed Thomas once promising career has certainly limited him in a way not even the Celtics could have anticipated when they traded him away for Kyrie Irving, but Thomas has never come close to recapturing his form from the 2015 and 2016 seasons. That’s why he wasn’t even on a roster at the start of this month.

But Thomas proved he could still score when he dropped 42 points in his first (and only) G-League game this season. He proved it again the other night when he dropped 19 off the bench for an injury riddled Lakers team too. Yet Boston’s front office couldn’t manage to do what it takes to bring him back to Boston.

There are reasons for not bringing back Thomas admittedly. They have solid guard depth with Smart, Schroder, and Payton Pritchard leading the way. But all three have been wildly inconsistent this season, and there really wouldn’t have been any harm giving Thomas a shot to prove he can still be an effective bench scorer.

Maybe Thomas doesn’t want to return to Boston given his previous tenure with the team ended on a fairly sour note. Thomas gave it his all the previous postseason for the Celtics, and they ruthlessly sent Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers just when it looked like Boston was going to emerge as a de facto title contender. While it was almost certainly the right move at the time, that doesn’t mean it was an easy pill for fans to swallow.

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Thomas played with a passion on a nightly basis that this current Celtics team seems to lack. At any given moment, Boston can go cold and just chuck up pointless shots for a stretch that puts them in a huge deficit. Having Thomas and his consistent scoring ability at all three levels of the court could ensure those dry stretches happen far less frequently.

It has seemed like a Thomas-Boston reunion would be something both parties would be interested in the for the past year or so, but the Boston Celtics seemingly have no intention of adding a player who could help their team get better. They missed another opportunity to potentially improve their bench by adding Thomas here. Here’s hoping the front office can finally pull the trigger on another move or two later on in the season instead.