Brad Stevens had a good reason to reminisce about the past on Friday night.
Former Celtics star guard Isaiah Thomas agreed to a 10-day contract with the Pelicans on Friday, marking his return to the NBA after being out of the league for over a year.
Stevens, who coached Thomas from 2015-17 in Boston, was elated for his former player.
“I watched him play with Team USA and communicated with him a little bit around there, and I’m really happy for him,” Stevens told reporters. “I sent (Pelicans coach) Stan (Van Gundy) a text today right afterwards. Obviously, I can’t say enough good things about Isaiah.”
Thomas arrived in Boston in the middle of Stevens’ second season as the Celtics’ head coach and made an instant impact. Boston was toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings when it traded for Thomas in February that season. However, Thomas helped lead the Celtics into the playoffs just two months later.
In his first full season with the Celtics, Thomas led the team to the fifth seed in the conference and a year later, he led the team to the conference’s top seed. While Thomas established himself as an MVP candidate that season, he had a good supporting cast around him. Two of those players, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk, were back in Boston Friday night as the Rockets were in town to face the Celtics.
Stevens reflected on what Thomas, Bradley, and Olynyk brought to the Celtics, especially on the team that won 53 games in the 2016-17 season.
“I’m brought back to how much I appreciate the way that that team played, and he was obviously the leader of the group,” Stevens said. “But he was so special here and so special to be around that you want the best for him, and this is a great opportunity.
“I look across the court today and the Houston team we played a couple of weeks ago is not the team we’re playing today, and two of the guys off the bench were two of our better players on that team as well. It’s always good to see all of those guys have success, and I’m sure Isaiah’s going to kill it when he gets that opportunity. I’m sure it’s going to lead to a long-term opportunity, as we all hope.”
Bradley and Olynyk were both traded to the Rockets from the Heat a week ago for Victor Oladipo. A few other major contributors from that team are still in the league. Al Horford is with the Thunder, but is sitting out for the rest of the season. Jae Crowder is now on the Suns and Terry Rozier is averaging a career-high 20.5 points per game with the Hornets this season.
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