Isaiah Thomas says he'd love to return to the Celtics

NBA.com Global on Jul 24, 2018 08:30 AM
Isaiah Thomas says he'd love to return to the Celtics
FILE - BOSTON, MA - APRIL 16: Isaiah Thomas, then with the Boston Celtics, observes a moment of silence before Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden on April 16, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

NBA.com staff report

Isaiah Thomas and Boston will be linked together forever, no matter what twists and turns are left in the one-time Celtics All-Star guard and former Kia MVP candidate's career. Fresh off of signing a one-year deal free agent deal with the Denver Nuggets, Thomas is still talking about his brief and controversial tenure with the Celtics.

In a detailed conversation with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Thomas discusses his rise with the Celtics, his dramatic and injury-plagued end in Boston and the tumultuous ride he's been on since departing (via trades) first for the Cleveland Cavaliers and, later, the Los Angeles Lakers (where he finished the 2017-18 season).

And the book on Thomas and the Celtics might not be closed, according to the Nuggets' new backup point guard:

Before finalizing the agreement with Denver, Thomas had reached out to Boston GM Danny Ainge. They talked for 15 to 20 minutes, Thomas says, and he told Ainge: "If the opportunity is there, I would just like to let you know that I'd love to come back."

Ainge says his mind was open to the idea, but the Celtics needed to work through Marcus Smart's restricted-free-agency discussions before they could consider making an offer to Thomas. Ainge was willing to continue the conversation, but Thomas accepted the Nuggets' offer before Boston had reached its new deal with Smart.

"S---, I'd have gone back," Thomas says. "I don't hold grudges."

But Thomas is thrilled to play for Malone again and loves watching the Nuggets play ball. He can tell how much they enjoy each other, and he wants to be a part of pushing them out of ninth place and into the Western Conference playoffs. They're close, and he knows it. "They need me, and I need them," Thomas says. "My hip is not normal. I understand that. But that doesn't mean that I can't play at a high level. That's what I have to fight and show people again. And I'm willing to do that. I am willing.

Thomas, the 60th and last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, made a name for himself as a clutch scorer with the Boston Celtics after his previous two teams (Sacramento and Phoenix) parted ways with him. In two-and-a-half seasons with Boston, the 5-foot-9 guard averaged 24.7 points and six assists per game. In 2016-17, Thomas was the driving force behind the Celtics' run to the Eastern Conference Finals while earning All-NBA Second Team honors along the way.

That playoff run ended, however, with a hip injury that lingered well past Boston dealing him to Cleveland in exchange for Kyrie Irving. Thomas played just 15 games for the Cavaliers before he was again dealt, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers. He suited up in 17 games for the Lakers before hip surgery ended a season in which he shot just 37.3 percent.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times during the 2017-18 season, Thomas told Tania Ganguli that he was open to staying in L.A. -- even in a reserve role. Those words came less than a week after Thomas told USA Today's Sam Amick that "I'm not no sixth man. And I won't be a sixth man (in the future). I just want everybody to know that, like clear as can be ..."

Additionally, Thomas told NBA.com's Shaun Powell in a late February he wants a long-term deal in free agency. "I’m looking to sign a long-term deal this summer but anything can happen. I can’t control it and can’t worry too much about it. I was only in Sacramento for three years, Boston for almost three years and the other stops were temporary. I’m looking hopefully to sign long term and call someplace home.”

For the Nuggets, the move to add Thomas bolsters their already considerable depth. The franchise re-signed star center Nikola Jokic and sixth man Will Barton to a long-term contracts on July 9, roughly two weeks after drafting Michael Porter Jr. with the No. 14 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report

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