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Isaiah Thomas ready to return to Boston for first time as a starter

Isaiah Thomas ready to return to Boston for first time as a starter

WASHINGTON -- It is not easy to carve out a legacy with the Boston Celtics, the team that owns the most NBA championships (17) and the most Hall of Famers (33). Good players come and go. Only the greats are remembered.

Isaiah Thomas, though, left a unique imprint behind. He was the best player on a team that reached the conference finals, a small feat in the context of Celtics history. But the way he played and the way he persevered through off-court tragedy and injury endeared him to fans in a special way.

Thomas only played two-and-a-half seasons with the Celtics, but he feels secure in the memories he left as he looks ahead to Wednesday where he will return to Boston for the first time as a starter. Being in the Wizards' starting lineup, Thomas' name will be announced before the game. And he has a good feeling for how it will go.

"They're gonna cheer. They're definitely not gonna boo," he said. "I love them just as much as they do."

Thomas made two All-Star teams with the Celtics and earned All-NBA honors in the 2016-17 season. That year Boston outlasted the Wizards in seven games in the second round of the playoffs.

Late in the 2016-17 season, Thomas' final in Boston, he lost his sister, Chyna, in a car accident and he tore the labrum in his right hip. The injury has continued to affect his career in the years since, as he has yet to reclaim his All-Star form.

So far with the Wizards, Thomas has played well. He signed as a free agent in the offseason and this year has averaged 13.2 points and 6.2 assists while shooting 36.4 percent from three. 

He is looking forward to Wednesday as an opportunity to show he can still play at a high level in the arena he had his best NBA years.

"Before the game it will be all fun and games and after the game. But once the game starts, they're the enemy. I'm just gonna try to win," he said.

"I visualize going for 50 on them. That's the plan and to win the game. But I hope that night is not about me and it takes away from what this team is all about."

Most of the Celtics' roster has been turned over since Thomas left. The only two remaining teammates of his are Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. When asked for the scouting report on them, Thomas quipped about Smart: "he flops."

Thomas may not know most of the players on the roster, but he knows head coach Brad Stevens well. Stevens is considered one of the league's best coaches and Thomas can list the reasons why.

"I think it's his preparation," Thomas explained. "He puts every player on the roster in position for them to be the best player they can possibly be and that's tough. He has a great system. He's an overall great coach. It's tough to go up against a coach like that because he's unpredictable."

Now, this won't be the first time Thomas has returned to Boston. It is just the first time as a starter, but it is also at a point where he has made some notable progress on the court towards being the player he once was.

The Boston fans have cheered him since he left and he's looking forward to seeing them again.

"That was a special moment, for real," Thomas said of going back last year while he was with the Nuggets. "The love they showed me, you would have thought I won a championship and was there 10 years-plus. I was only there almost three years."

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This date in Wizards history: Bradley Beal sets franchise record for single-season 3-pointers

This date in Wizards history: Bradley Beal sets franchise record for single-season 3-pointers

For the better part of eight years, three-point shooting in Washington DC was synonymous with the name, Gilbert Arenas. 

He was an electric shot-maker and was one of the NBA's revolutionary offensive players, paving the way for a wave of score-first guards like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. Before Arenas set the franchise record for threes made in a season with 205, the previous record was only 158 held by Tracy Murray in 1997-98. He introduced a different level of marksmanship to this town. 

On this day, three years ago, the man who will go down as the best shooting guard in Wizards history set a new standard from three-point range. Against the Clippers in a late-season contest, Bradley Beal hit his 206th three of the season. He would go on to make 223 triples in 2016-17. 

2016-17 was a breakout year for Beal and the Wizards. He averaged 23.1 points per game, the first time he'd averaged over 20 while his teammate John Wall set career-highs in scoring, assists, steals and field goal percentage. 

Washington won 49 games and made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but in this particular game, they weren't as successful. The Clippers won the game 133-124 thanks to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and JJ Redick combining for 107 points. 

LA's incredible output from their stars spoiled 27 points from Beal and a 41-point, eight-assist and seven-rebound performance by Wall.

The Clippers went on to finish the season as the fourth seed in the Western Conference, only to lose in the first round to the Jazz thanks to another untimely injury to Blake Griffin. 

The Wizards, as stated before secured the fourth seed in the East, beat the Hawks in six games in the first round and then fell to the Celtics in the second round. It remains the longest playoff run for Beal and Wall. 

Beal may have to watch out for his teammate Davis Bertans, though. At the time of the NBA's suspension, Bertans was at 200 made threes with 18 games to play. Once the season picks back up, the Latvian Laser is in prime position to set a new franchise record. 

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LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

These 2K simulations certainly do agree with the Wizards. Coming off a stunning victory over the Bucks Friday, Washington turned around on the second night of a back-to-back and beat the Lakers 73-66 at virtual Capital One Arena. 

LeBron James was a one-man wrecking crew for LA, Bradley Beal led the scoring attack for the Wizards and Thomas Bryant got revenge on the team that waived him. 

Here's how the Wizards picked up their fourth-straight 2K win. 

Offensive rebounds

The Lakers are one of the biggest teams in the NBA with James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard playing heavy minutes, but it was the Wizards who dominated the boards in this one. 

Bryant led the way for Washington on the glass with seven of his 13 rebounds coming on the offensive end. The Lakers shot the ball significantly better than the Wizards (47% to 39%) but Washington was simply overwhelming them on the glass to create more opportunities. 

Washington grabbed 18 offensive rebounds compared to the Lakers' eight, and it ended being the major difference in the result. 

LeBron's one-man show

The real-life Lakers' biggest weakness is their lack of playmaking outside of James. In a game where James had everything working for him, the Lakers struggled to get anything going whenever he didn't have the ball. 

Rajon Rondo struggled mightily despite tallying eight assists (2-11 FG) and Davis had a bad game relative to his standards (10 points, one rebound, three blocks).

I'd be curious to see what virtual LeBron would have to say about his teammates after this particular game. 

Thomas Bryant's revenge

As we stated before, Bryant was waived by the Lakers after his rookie season and his virtual self took it all out on his former team Saturday night. 

He dominated the boards and once again protected the paint in a way that would make Elvin Hayes proud. He finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. 

With Bryant playing the way he has been the last few simulations, the Wizards' defense has been exceptional. Outside of defensive versatility, having a strong defensive center anchoring the defense is paramount to an effective unit. 

Other parting thoughts

Jerome Robinson continues to play well as a starter, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes. The Wizards didn't get that long of a look at Robinson before the NBA suspended its season.

After acquiring him at the trade deadline in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, it'd be another steal by Tommy Sheppard if Robinson can play like this consistently in real life. 

Instead of erupting in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards secure a win, Beal went off for 14 points in the third this time. He finished with 24 points and went 12-for-30 from the field.

Markieff Morris made a return to DC in this one. The Lakers uniform looks weird on him. 

It's hard to capture just how quick Ish Smith is in a video game, but this spin move came pretty close. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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