Thomas' Celtics legacy is being written as Pierce prepares for final chapter

Thomas' Celtics legacy is being written as Pierce prepares for final chapter

LOS ANGELES -- When Paul Pierce returned to Boston for the last time last time as a player last month, he had a chance encounter with Isaiah Thomas at Strip by Strega restaurant.

The two sat down and broke bread.

Pierce spoke of how he enjoyed watching Thomas play, providing him tips on how to continue to navigate his way through the Boston sports scene which can be a challenge if you’re not prepared for some amazing highs and some brutally painful lows.

It was just a couple of NBA guys who happened to cross paths and decided to chat for a while.

MORE: Paul Pierce plays his final game against Celtics

But for a franchise who has seen the amazing works and wonders of the basketball gods, this was no accident.

Whether they intended to meet up or not, this was going to happen.

It had to.

This is how the passing of the torch works with the established (Pierce) and soon-to-be Celtics royalty (Thomas).

When one great era comes to an end, an heir apparent moves in.

Bye-bye Pierce.

Hello Isaiah Thomas.

While the game at the TD Garden on Feb. 5 was certainly the final emotional moment in this love affair between the Truth and Celtics Nation, true closure won’t be complete until after tonight’sgame between Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Because after tonight, this is it.

Pierce the player will never face the franchise that he helped lead through a treacherous period filled with historic losses only to be followed by a meteoric rise to the top of the NBA mountaintop.

The 39-year-old Pierce was there for it all, and has on more than one occasion talked about how those rough times paved the way for him to appreciate the sweet moments like winning it all in 2008, the jubilation of that moment that he got to share with Kevin Garnett whose path to a title was just as jagged as the one Pierce traveled.

Isaiah Thomas’ story as a Celtic won’t have such a rags-to-riches theme to it.

Thomas’ basketball odyssey has that narrative covered, from the preface of constantly being told he was too small to … (pick a level of play; Thomas has heard it time and time again), to an epilogue in which he has been rewriting the history books of the most storied franchise in NBA history.

But Thomas’ story isn’t over.

In fact, it’s only beginning as he leads the Celtics (40-23) to their best start under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens with a record that ranks among the league’s best.

Boston is on track to open the playoffs at home for the first time since 2012, when they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

That was also the last year the Celtics won a playoff series, which is the next step for Thomas and the Celtics as they continue to improve and inch closer and closer to becoming a title contender.

“It was a surreal moment for me to sit back and soak up all the game he was giving me,” Thomas said of dinner with Pierce. “I’ll take that with me forever.”

And as he prepares to face Pierce and the Clippers one last time, Thomas knows the legacy of the 10-time All-Star was etched in stone following the 2008 season when he led the Celtics to an NBA-best 17th title.

Celtics Nation showed their appreciation for Pierce during his final game at the TD Garden on Feb. 5, a moment that Thomas appreciated … and hoped to someday have for himself.

“You win a championship here, you give your all here, they’ll love you forever,” Thomas said at the time. “It was the definition of what they did for one of the best players ever to play here.”
Thomas added, “It drives me a lot. I want to be like that one day, hopefully. Be in that situation where I can be on a franchise for a long time; give it my blood, sweat and tears and come back and play your last game and have that type of love is unbelievable.”

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“He (Davis) was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pelicans

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”