Celtics

Why Chris Mannix says Celtics likely won’t bring back Isaiah Thomas

Thomas is "not close" to the player he was when he last played in Boston, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix said.

Isaiah Thomas Celtics
Isaiah Thomas. Wilfredo Lee/AP
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The Celtics have yet to make much of a splash in NBA free agency, making more headlines for who they’ve lost (Evan Fournier and Semi Ojeleye) than who they’ve added (former Celtics big man Enes Kanter).

Then, NBA insider Marc Stein threw an interesting little hand grenade into the conversation as free agency kicked off: the possibility that the Celtics might bring back old fan-favorite Isaiah Thomas.

“Boston, I’m told, has interest in an Isaiah Thomas reunion, with new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens known to be one of Thomas’ biggest fans,” Stein wrote Monday on his Substack page.

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The 32-year-old point guard, who won Boston over with his MVP-esque 2017 season and perseverance through injury and loss, has fallen on hard times in the NBA since the Celtics traded him for Kyrie Irving.

That said, he proved recently he can still get a bucket or two, dropping 65 points in a pro-am game in Atlanta this week.

Still, though the storylines would be compelling if the diminutive point guard did return to Boston, Sports Illustrated NBA reporter Chris Mannix isn’t convinced he would be worth the investment.

On an appearance with WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria Show”, Mannix shot down the possible reunion despite Stevens’s respect for Thomas.

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“Brad Stevens does feel a certain loyalty to Isaiah Thomas for what he did for that team in 2017 — playing hurt, pushing them into the conference finals. There’s definitely an attachment there,” he said. “The problem is that we’ve got a pretty good look at what Isaiah is a basketball player right now. He’s just not close to the player that he was during his best years in Boston.”

Thomas has made five stops on the NBA circuit since departing from Boston. He last played for the New Orleans Pelicans on a 10-day contract, averaging 7.7 points in just three games played.

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During that time, as Mannix has pointed out, he’s become a more one-dimensional player than he has in years past, relying almost solely on his jump shot to score. It’s likely no coincidence that his shooting percentage has taken a noticeable dip in the years since the hip injury that derailed his career.

“When I talk to Celtics coaches of the past about what made Isaiah great, one of the attributes was that he was just indefatigable out there. He moved constantly,” the reporter said. “In the aftermath of that surgery, he hasn’t moved quite as well. It’s an unfortunate fallout from what happened to him. You wish you could go back in time and tell Isaiah not to play after that injury in Minnesota, and maybe things turn out differently.”

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The Celtics, of course, wouldn’t be asking Thomas to be the starting point guard they sent away four years ago. In all likelihood, he’d be in line for a bench role, providing some of the reserve scoring that just walked out the door with Fournier.

But that output, Mannix suggests, is likely to come from another source than Thomas: “I just don’t see how he winds up back in Boston.”

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