Isaiah Thomas knows all too well that the NBA is indeed a business

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Isaiah Thomas knows all too well that the NBA is indeed a business

BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas knows all too well that the NBA is indeed a business. But even he was caught off guard at how quickly the Cleveland Cavaliers went into “panic mode” and traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In an interview with ESPN’s E:60 that will air on March 11, Thomas said he didn’t think the Cavs “would pull the trigger that fast, 15 games.”

And while there was certainly an understanding that it might take some time for Thomas to get back to all-star form after returning to action from a hip injury, Cleveland was just 7-8 when Thomas played and did not look a team that was going to turn the corner anytime soon.

Making matters worse, Thomas averaged just 14.7 points per game with the Cavs which was a far cry from the 29 points per game he averaged last season in Boston which by the way, led all players in the Eastern Conference in points per game.  

“The Cavs were, I mean, they were in panic mode,” Thomas said. “We were losing – a lot. And I think they felt like they needed to make a move, and they, they basically cleared house.”

Thomas would go on to explain some of the challenges he experienced in Cleveland which acquired him, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a pair of draft picks (one of which was the 2018 unprotected first-round pick from Brooklyn) from Boston, on August 22 in exchange for Kyrie Irving.

"It was a tough situation I was being put in," Thomas said. "It was, it was different. It's hard to get acclimated to a team halfway through the season.

Thomas added, "People don't put in there that we had eight or nine new players. So, it was basically a brand new team. ... I'm in a new system. New team, new coach, new players. And then I've been off for seven months. So, I got to get -- individually, I got to for the most part get my rhythm back, get my timing back."

And while he would have preferred things worked out in Cleveland, he sees being traded to the Lakers a chance to reinvigorate the franchise similar to what he did for Boston after the Phoenix Suns traded him to the Celtics at the trade deadline in 2015.

“I just brought a different swagger to that (Celtics) organization,” Thomas said. “And we took it and ran with it."

The Celtics improved their record in each of Thomas’ seasons with the Celtics, the last of which included Boston finishing with the best record in the East while advancing to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to Cleveland.

"I'm coming to an L.A. team that's young, that already has a system,” Thomas said. “And I just want to help. Hopefully I'm here long term, you know, with me being a free agent this summer. But if I'm not, these last 25 games I'm going to play my heart out and show the Lakers why I should be here long term."

In five games (all off the bench) with the Lakers, Thomas has averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists while playing 21.8 minutes per game.


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

1:24 - A. Sherrod Blakely, Brain Scalabrine and Kyle Draper break down the Celtics' selection in the 2018 NBA Draft and are joined by the man who made the pick himself, Danny Ainge.

7:49 - The Nets and Dwight Howard have begun buyout talks, which means the veteran center could soon be a free agent. Michael Holley, Danielle Trotta and Luke Bonner debate if Howard would be a good fit in Boston.

11:59 - Brad Stevens fields questions from the media immediately following the Celtics selection of Williams.



Ainge stays patient in draft by standing pat at No. 27

Ainge stays patient in draft by standing pat at No. 27

BOSTON – Danny Ainge went through his customary routine of making calls up and down the draft, looking for any and every opportunity to make a deal that would strengthen the Boston Celtics roster. 

And while he was open to getting a deal done and move away from the team’s late first-round pick, Ainge said he went into Thursday night’s draft intent on standing pat with the 27th overall pick that was used to select Robert Williams.

The past few weeks were spent by Ainge and his front office staff examining what the price would be for them to move up in the draft. 

That price proved to be too steep for Ainge’s liking. 

His assessment afterward?

“We were preparing for the 27th pick,” Ainge said. “We were preparing for opportunities to move up; not all the way to the top of the draft but somewhere in the middle and we were preparing for guys we didn’t like, and move back in the draft. It’s the same thing we do every year, prepare for any situation that comes up.”

But this draft felt different, in part because the Celtics were beginning further back than recent years in which includes Boston having the No. 3 overall pick in back-to-back drafts. 

And just like Boston seemed to get great value out of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum from the last two drafts, they are hoping for continued draft success in adding Williams who at one point was considered a player with lottery (top-14) pick talent. 

“Robert will have opportunities to play, but that will depend on how well he plays, what he does,” Ainge said.

Williams’ head coach Billy Kennedy echoed similar sentiments.

“He’s a special talent,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy told Boston Sports Tonight. “He can do things some of the other guys in the draft can’t do.”

Which made staying patient and not aggressively trying to move up in the draft, a worthwhile decision for Ainge in Boston landing a player that they did not go into the draft anticipating would be available to them if they stood pat with the 27th overall pick.