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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