Isaiah Thomas is Easy to Root For

Isaiah Thomas was beloved in Boston. In this piece, I describe why he is such an easy guy to root for and why it is still sad to see him in a Cavaliers uniform.

It is impossible not to fall in love with Isaiah Thomas.

Boston did in just two years.

After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the last pick of the 2011 NBA draft, Isaiah Thomas has had to fight through adversity his whole career.

Listed at only 5-foot-9, but looking more like 5-foot-7, the “little guy” (as termed by Celtics color commentator Tommy Heinsohn) has constantly been doubted on the court because of his height.

After playing with the Kings for three seasons, Thomas was traded to the Phoenix Suns, where he had to fight for playing time with starting guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. However, off the bench, Thomas had success as a scorer, averaging 15.2 points per game.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge recognized Thomas’ scoring ability and traded for him in what can be considered one of the great steals of the century.

With Boston, Isaiah shined.

In just two years, Thomas became a David Ortiz-like figurehead in the city. Bostonians were that emotionally attached to him.

How could you not? It was a great story. One of the smallest players in the league was leading an undertalented team to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Not only that, Thomas was also hitting big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter for Boston.

Now fast forward to April 15, 2017. On this date, Thomas’ sister passed away tragically in a car accident.

A day later, the Celtics had a home opening playoff game against the Bulls. Not only did Isaiah play, but he recorded 33 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Celtics ended up beating the Bulls in the first round and then faced the Wizards in the second round.

In game two against the Wizards, Thomas had 53 points on his sisters’ birthday.

After the Celtics beat the Wizards, they then faced LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.

However, after just the first two games of the series, Thomas re-aggravated his hip and was forced to miss the rest of the playoffs.

The Celtics ended up losing to the Cavaliers in five games. But it was not all doom and gloom for the “green teamers.” In the offseason, the Celtics finally got a win in free agency after Gordon Hayward agreed to sign with them.

Focusing on rehabbing his hip so he could join Hayward and Horford for their own “big three,” Isaiah received devastating news.

He, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic were moving to Cleveland.

In a blockbuster deal, the Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers for Thomas, the 2018 first round Brooklyn Nets pick, a 2020 second rounder, Crowder, and Zizic.

Fans, players, and media members reacted to the trade immediately on twitter.

If anyone did not know this by now, this trade once again shows that sports are, and always will be, a business. There is rarely loyalty.

“That s--- hurt,” Thomas said on The Players Tribune. “It hurt a lot.”

“I hope people can understand that when I say it hurt, it isn’t directed at anyone,” Thomas clarified. “I’m not saying I was hurt by anyone, or wronged by anyone, or betrayed. I’m just saying, man, I’m only human. I may act like a tough guy on the court. And I may seem like I have ice in my veins when I’m competing. But it ain’t ice, really. I got blood and I got a heart like everyone else.”

How can you not love this guy?

After Thomas was traded to Cleveland, the doubters started to creep back in and media members started talking about him like he is damaged goods. A player who scored 28.9 points per game last season and was mentioned in MVP considerations was now being doubted again.

Let’s be honest. Isaiah’s size is a limiting factor and he has a hard time playing defense at his height, especially in the playoffs.

But his scoring, toughness, competitiveness and his character are unmatched.

After Gordon Hayward suffered a horrific season-ending injury in game one of the 2017 regular season for the Celtics against the Cavs, Isaiah showed his true nature.

Hayward describes how Isaiah visited and consoled him in the training room after Hayward’s injury.

“The first person who talked to me back there was Isaiah Thomas,” Hayward said on his own personal blog. “He was already back there in a training room. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I know he said a prayer for me, like right next to me. He was just there for me. I’ve learned in a short time what a special guy Isaiah is.”

In addition to helping Hayward through his injury, Isaiah is also helping out little kids in the community.

In a story posted on ESPN, Isaiah formed a special bond with a 5-year-old boy named Gavin Heileman. The two met during the Cavaliers’ annual “Big Shots and Little Stars” fundraiser, which raises money for the Flashes of Hope organization. The organization photographs thousands of children fighting cancer and shows the images to other sick children to give them the motivation to keep fighting.

Gavin is recovering from a horrific brain tumor just two years ago. Coincidentally, just like Thomas, Gavin is the shortest kid in his class.

‘“You like it?” Thomas said [to gavin], [Isaiah's] face lighting up. “Being small is so cool. I'm the smallest guy in the NBA. I'm the smallest guy in basketball, so we're like the same guy.”’

“I'm not a huge crier, and I just started bawling because you could just tell that Gavin felt so comfortable with Isaiah,” said Gavin’s mother, Cameron Heileman.

“The entire car ride home, [Gavin] was just super, super ... I don't even know how to explain it,” Cameron said. “Just like a kid I've never seen before. He was just so excited about everything.”

Isaiah described how seeing these children helps him fight through hard times.

“Like, I have half the worries they have, and they're still smiling,” Thomas said. “That helps me out when I'm going through tough times. It's like, people are going through worse things than I am, and they're still pushing through. So these kids are everything. These kids are what keep me going.”

Isaiah Thomas returned to action for the Cavaliers on Jan. 1st against the Trailblazers. In 19 minutes, he scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Since that game, Thomas has scored 21 points against the Magic and nine points against the Timberwolves.

Because the Cavaliers played the Celtics recently on a back-to-back, Isaiah sat out for the game. The Celtics played fantastic team basketball and they beat the Cavaliers 102-88. As great as the win felt, it was still sad to see Isaiah on the visitor’s bench.

The Celtics made the right deal. There is no doubt about it. I liked the trade at the time and it looks even better now. However, I still wish the Celtics had IT.

As a diehard Celtics fan and an avid LeBron hater, I am only rooting for Isaiah to succeed this season. He was beloved last year and those emotional attachments don’t just go away overnight.

But whether you root for Isaiah this season or not, one thing is certain:

Gavin will be.

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