Blakely: Isaiah has all the love for Boston, none for Danny


Blakely: Isaiah has all the love for Boston, none for Danny

BOSTON – When Isaiah Thomas has been cast aside in the past, there was an undeniable disdain for that team going forward.

With the Celtics, it’s different.

He has no issues with his former coaches and teammates.

The ire of his disdain?

Danny Ainge.

“I might not ever talk to Danny again,” Thomas said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “That might not happen.”

Thomas was part of a four-player trade that sent the two-time All-Star, along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, a first-round pick (Brooklyn’s first-rounder in 2018) and a second-round pick (Miami’s in 2020) to the Cavs in exchange for Kyrie Irving.
“That was such an unusual situation,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters in Charlotte on Wednesday morning. “That we would have a trade between these two teams, with those caliber of players on both sides and everything else. That initial jarring is what makes it really tough, and the emotional feel you have for the guys gone which are...I can’t say enough good things about [the guys Boston traded away this summer].”
Thomas experienced some amazing highs in his final season in Boston, as well as some incredibly painful lows.
The 5-foot-9 guard led the Eastern Conference in scoring at 28.9 points per game in a season in which he was named to the All-Star team for the second season in a row, in addition to earning All-NBA second-team honors.
But on the eve of the playoffs, his younger sister Chyna Thomas was killed in a car accident. Playing with a heavy heart, Thomas delivered one of the gutsiest playoff performances ever by a Celtic, scoring a playoff career-high 53 points in a Game 2 overtime win against Washington in the second round, just hours after the funeral for his sister.
Adding to the incredibly powerful narrative of Thomas was the fact that he played with an injured right hip that in retrospect, he says should have kept him out of the postseason.
“No doubt about it,” Thomas said. “I should have sat out the playoffs. No way around it, I made it worse.”
Playing through the pain of his sister’s untimely passing and dealing with a hip injury, Thomas had reason to believe that his future in Boston was secure and that he would be looking to sign a long-term deal with the Celtics in the summer of 2018 when he becomes a free agent and could finally cash in as one of the game’s elite point guards.
But Kyrie Irving’s trade request in July changed everything.
Now, Boston is an enemy but different than Sacramento and Phoenix, two teams that tossed Thomas aside quickly that he made a point of trying to exact revenge every time he would face them afterward.
“Boston is going to be all love,” said Thomas who added there would be one notable exception – Ainge. “I’ll talk to everybody else. But what he did, knowing everything I went through, you don’t do that, bro. That’s not right. I’m not saying eff you. But every team in this situation comes out a year or two later and says, ‘We made a mistake.’ That’s what they’ll say, too.”

Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

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Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

LOS ANGELES – Al Horford is credited for consistently being someone whose play contributes heavily to winning games.

But it was in defeat in the playoffs nearly a decade ago to the Boston Celtics that has shaped him into the player we see before us today.

“They were a tough team,” Horford said of the eventual NBA champion Celtics. “Defensively, just as good as they come. They looked like a very together group.”

Horford added, “It helped me tremendously. It helped that team that I was with in Atlanta, a lot. To have that experience, to go against the eventual champions but at that time a veteran team like the Celtics, it really but really made me realize the level I needed to play and the things I needed to do to for the team to be successful.”

And those lessons have helped shape the 31-year-old into being a five-time all-star whose teams have been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA.

“That first year could not have gone any better. It was a great learning experience and I felt it helped set up the rest of my career,” Horford said.

These days, Horford finds himself as the voice of experience on a Celtics team that has been among the NBA’s best squads for most of this season.

Horford has an open-door policy when it comes to doling out advice and tips for improvement, to his younger teammates.

But he knows first-hand the greatest teacher is experience.

“You can say things but you have to live through different things,” Horford said. “The biggest thing I try to emphasize to them and coach (Brad Stevens) talks about, is embracing the now. It’s about taking advantage of what we have now. 

Horford added, "I've been in the league, this is my 11th year, you never know if you’re going to have the same teammates next year. That happened to us last year. We had a great year and I look around and it’s only four of us remaining. I just think it’s embracing and taking advantage of doing the best you can with the group you have.”


Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

LOS ANGELES – After making a near-perfect pass during the early stages of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Al Horford was feeling good about his chances of winning.

But near the end, the final stage – knocking down a 3-pointer – proved to be Horford’s undoing as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid eliminated Horford in the first round after Horford missed three consecutive three-pointers.

“It happens. It was fun,” Horford said.

Embiid, who was eliminated in the next round by Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, said he was nervous before the event.

“I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast,” Embiid told reporters. “I have no idea. But I thought it was fun.”

Although Horford has been a part of all-star weekend four times prior to tonight, this was the first time he participated in the Skills Challenge.

“It’s different. I normally come as a fan,” he said. “This time it was a little different, just getting your mind set and come out here and compete and win. It’s good to be a part of it. Now I can just scratch that off.”

When I asked him about tips or advice from teammates, he said the only thing they told him was he “had to win it.”

“I let them down so I have to make it up in the season,” said Horford, grinning.

Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie wound up winning the event, over Markkanen.