Fans of the Boston Celtics have been riding waves of emotion over the past few weeks, going up and down with every new phase of the 2017 NBA postseason. One minute they’re elated after a Game 7 win over the Wizards in the Conference Semifinals, the next they’re distraught over a pair of embarrassing losses to the Cavaliers at home.
But after the Celtics stole a game from the Cavaliers in Cleveland and played them close in Game 4’s 112-99 loss some Celtics fans are entering a strange new phase: the doubting Isaiah Thomas phase.
Here is my short reply to anyone saying the Celtics are better off without their star player: YOU”RE WRONG!
Now before we go completely delusional with the “Celtics would be better off without Isaiah” talk it’s important to point out that, while it was an impressive comeback win in Game 3, the Cavaliers hit just 11 of their 35 second half shots, and only went 2 for 17 from three. That wouldn’t happen again and when the Cavaliers shots start falling the Celtics are going to need someone capable of matching Cleveland’s scoring. Without Isaiah in the lineup that player is not currently on this Celtics team. (This was put on display in Game 4 when Kryie Irving went off in the fourth quarter and the Celtics couldn’t match the Cav’s scoring)
The greater argument being made against Isaiah, aside from his defensive limitations, is that he plays with the ball in his hand to often, not allow other players to get into a rhythm. Some people are asking how the young players are going to grow without getting touches? And why would another elite scorer (Gordon Hayward) come to Boston if it means they wouldn’t get the ball as much?
On the surface these seem like legitimate questions. Marucs Smart hit seven three pointers in Game 3, Avery Bradley, Kely Olynyk and even Jonas Jerebko have contributed from beyond the arch; but let’s not go deciding the future of the franchise off two playoff games (one of which was a loss). Smart is simply not capable of a performance like that on a game-to-game bases. Smart finished the regular season shooting just a 23 percent from three, good enough for the 323rd three point percentage in the NBA. And don’t forget that Jerebko struggled to get minutes in the Celtics previous two playoff series. Even if players like Smart and Jerebko are allowed to get into a better rhythm without Isaiah on the court they are just not capable of playing at a similarly high caliber on a day-to-day bases.
And sure the ball has stuck with Isaiah a lot this season, but it isn’t because he needs to play with the ball in his hands it’s that the rest of his teammates have struggled to hit shots. When the shots start falling Isaiah doesn’t hesitate to distribute the ball, but can you blame him for not passing when Smart and Jae Crowder are throwing up bricks? Do you remember his performance in Game 5 of the Wizards series? Thomas finished with nine assists and helped get Avery Bradley going for a playoff career high 27 point performance.
— Sports Maniac (@Sports___Maniac) May 21, 2017
Another argument against Isaiah is that he won’t be a good fit playing with projected draft pick Markelle Fultz. The argument is that they’re both guards and both need the ball to be effective.
I don’t buy that and the only man who has coached both Isaiah Thomas and Markelle Fultz, ex-Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, isn’t buying that either. Romar cited Fultz’s skill set as being versatile enough to play alongside anyone.
“Markelle can literally play with anybody because he’s skilled enough where him and Isaiah, him and Avery Bradley, him and Marcus Smart, whoever is in the game, Markelle is skilled enough and versatile enough to adapt to whomever he’s playing with,” Romar told the Boston Globe.
“Isaiah is not a one-dimensional point guard where he’s not that good of a shooter or scorer and he just has to have the ball in his hands or he’s not effective,” Romar continued. “He’s effective in a lot of different ways, just like Markelle is.”
There might be an argument to be made for not signing Isaiah to a max contract, or not renegotiating at the end of this season. When you’re planning on signing free agents and bringing in potentially franchise altering talent through the draft some GM’s will be inclined to save cap space. But that’s an argument that’s based more in finance than in basketball. If you look at what Thomas did for the Celtics team on the court it’s obvious that they are better off with him – that they wouldn’t be in the Eastern Conference finals without him. Anyone who says otherwise is either brainwashed by the Celtics recent success or they just don’t know basketball. Either way don’t fall for it and don’t get caught up in this new phase that so many Celtics fans are entering.