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Isaiah Thomas had some historic moments in his brief tenure with the Boston Celtics, but not all players enjoyed playing with the ball-dominant point guard. According to NBA Insider Jeff Goodman, IT rubbed some Celtics teammates the wrong way.
Speaking on the “Good N’ Plenty” podcast on CLNS Media, Goodman said some Celtics did not like playing with the All-Star guard.
“[Thomas] needs the ball in his hands a lot. He had it in Boston. He wasn’t going to get that everywhere else. Because, frankly, if he has the ball in his hands a lot there are other people are upset. There are other people standing around. And again, it worked in Boston. Although, there were players in Boston that played on that team that did not like playing with Isaiah Thomas.”
The offense did run almost entirely through Thomas when he played in Boston. He averaged a whopping 19.4 shot attempts per contest in his final year in Boston in 2016-17. The 5’9” guard was dominant though, averaging 28.9 points and finishing fifth in MVP voting.
In defense of Thomas, there were few other guys that could generate their own offense. As good as Al Horford has been for the Celtics, he has never been a player that the offense can flow through for long stretches of the game. The other three starters Thomas played next to in his final season in Boston were Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Amir Johnson—none of whom could create their own shots consistently.
Thomas did not get the chance to play alongside Jayson Tatum. Jaylen Brown did not play much in his rookie season. Both youngsters could have taken the burden off Thomas offensively.
Marcus Morris, another dependable scorer, was acquired after Thomas had been traded away to the Cleveland Cavaliers. And Terry Rozier had not refined his offensive skills, not yet establishing himself as “Scary Terry.”
In Brad Stevens’ equal opportunity offense that was on full display in 2017-18, the Celtics had consistent sources of scoring from multiple players. For most of the regular season, the offense was powered through Kyrie Irving, who established far better on-court chemistry with Horford than Thomas ever had.
Boston’s young core also got the chance to develop at an accelerated rate without the shot-chucking Thomas on the roster. Brown and Tatum received ample opportunities on offense and took advantage of them. Both are now rising stars who could find themselves representing the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game within the next year or two.
Thomas had some famed games—most notably scoring a TD Garden-record 53 points in Game 2 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals versus the Washington Wizards—but his inability to share the rock on offense would hinder Boston’s current offensive approach.
Boston was the best defensive team in the NBA this past season, something they likely wouldn’t have accomplished had Thomas still been on the team.
The Celtics are simply better off without Thomas, a notion his former teammates would probably agree with.