Celtics

Why Isaiah Thomas believes he 'took a bullet' playing hurt for Celtics

Why Isaiah Thomas believes he 'took a bullet' playing hurt for Celtics

Isaiah Thomas gave everything he had to the Boston Celtics during the 2016-17 season.

But did he give too much?

In his introductory press conference Tuesday after signing with the Washington Wizards, Thomas suggested he was a sacrificial lamb for other NBA stars when he played through a hip injury in Boston during the 2017 playoffs.

"I took a bullet," Thomas said, via NBC Sports Washington. "That's in terms of max contracts, all that. People not playing to get their max deals. I took a bullet for sure."

Thomas' heroics in the spring of 2017 helped lift the Celtics past those same Wizards into the Eastern Conference Finals. But they also derailed his career, exacerbating a hip injury (that later would require surgery) just as he entered free agency.

Thomas, who is on his fourth team in three years and never got his max deal, believes his situation was a cautionary tale for stars like Kawhi Leonard, who shut himself down in 2017-18 with the San Antonio Spurs rather than play through injury.

"I feel like, especially with the Kawhi Leonard thing, he sat out for a reason," Thomas added. "He seen my situation, for sure he seen it. The list goes on. Load management I think is smart for players."

That plan certainly worked for Leonard, who won NBA Finals MVP with the Toronto Raptors this past season after missing 22 regular season games due to rest and just landed a maximum contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Would the Celtics have "backed up the Brinks trick" for Thomas in the summer of 2017 had he shut it down before the playoffs? Who knows? But star players like Leonard certainly can point to Thomas while advocating for "load management" over "win at all costs."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Celtics Report Card: Power Ranking the C's roster by importance

Celtics Report Card: Power Ranking the C's roster by importance

Who's been the Celtics MVP so far this season? 

It's not exactly an easy question to answer. Last week, we asked you guys to pick. Given four options — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Marcus Smart — voters were split.

Smart prevailed in the balloting with 28 percent of votes but no one earned less than 22 percent. It hammered home how Boston’s early season success has been a group effort from their core players. 

In lieu of a report card — and Inspired by last weeks’ voting — we attempted this week to try to power rank Celtics players based on their importance to the team’s success so far this season. Like the voters in our poll, we found that you could shuffle the top 5 in just about any order and make a case for your rankings.

Click here for this week's Celtics Report Card.>>>>>

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Kemba Walker 'ecstatic' about getting Gordon Hayward back in Celtics lineup

Kemba Walker 'ecstatic' about getting Gordon Hayward back in Celtics lineup

BOSTON — Count Kemba Walker among those excited to get Gordon Hayward back on the court.

"I'm excited. I'm ecstatic and happy for him,” said Walker. "He was playing really well before he got hurt and, of course, we need him. He is one of our best players. He's a starter for us and averaging 20 points. That's 20 points that we were missing. It will be great to get him back for sure.”

Hayward went through walkthrough Monday with the intention of playing Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to coach Brad Stevens. Hayward was conferencing with trainers after shootaround looking for the final thumbs up. 

Hayward has missed the past 13 games while rehabbing from a left-hand fracture suffered against the San Antonio Spurs in early November.

The Celtics, however, will not be at full strength on Monday even if Hayward plays. Robert Williams is out due to a sore left hip while Marcus Smart is doubtful due to an eye infection.

Walker doesn’t believe the Celtics will have any struggles reintegrating Hayward after his absence. Boston went 9-4 without him.

“Gordon is so smart and knows how to play the game, so easy to play with,” said Walker. "I don't think there will be any challenges. I think he's going to come in and do as well as he did before he got hurt.”

In other injury news, Stevens gave positive updates on Romeo Langford and Tacko Fall.

“[Langford] had a great workout this morning. Did a little bit of our shootaround so that was good, should be clear pretty soon,” Stevens said of the 14th overall pick, who has been sidelined by an ankle he sprained twice in Maine.

"Tacko is doing great,” said Stevens. "I’m guessing he’ll be cleared by the end of the week.”

Fall, a two-way big man, has been sidelined recently with a bruised knee. Once healthy, he’ll be able to rejoin the Maine Red Claws.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.