Today on Season Ticket, host Chris Gasper (@CGasper) and Dan Shaughnessy discuss Isaiah Thomas’ place in Celtics history and what reaction he'll get ahead of his first return to the Garden as a member of the Cavaliers. Then, they lament the mediocre AFC playoff field and react to a quiet Red Sox offseason.
- Dan Shaughnessy (@Dan_Shaughnessy), Sports Columnist, The Boston Globe
On Isaiah Thomas not playing tonight against the Celtics
Dan Shaughnessy: Unfortunately, tonight we're not going to see him. I'm mad about that. This is ridiculous. They should have Isaiah play tonight, not last night. Last night they had [an] easy win at home against Portland. That's when you rest him. I understand not playing him back-to-back, but they really made a soft entry for him rather than a rigorous entry. And the way he's been spouting off since he left here, angry at Danny [Ainge], hating on everybody, not wanting a tribute—I mean, play tonight not last night.
Chris Gasper: Well, the reason he's not playing tonight is he just made his season debut. The guy's coming off a major hip injury. A lot of people didn't even think he'd be back by this point in the season. There was talk he might not be back until April or May. So, they have to protect him with that hip injury.
Dan Shaughnessy: Why couldn't he have played tonight and not last night?
Chris Gasper: Because he wants to be at his best when he plays here. All that stuff you just mentioned about how much it means to him, how upset he was when he was dealt from the Celtics, that's why he doesn't want to play! ... The reality is he's not 100%, so, if you were playing against your former employer and you wanted to show them they made a huge mistake letting you go, wouldn't you want to be at your absolute best?
Dan Shaughnessy: That's too much of the diva thing in him. Competitively, [the Cavs] needed him more tonight than they needed him last night. They're on the road against the Celtics ... It's just catering to the star in this case. I just thought it was cheesy and a bad look for him.
On Isaiah Thomas requesting the Celtics wait to show his video tribute until a game when he's playing
Dan Shaughnessy: This is ridiculous. [The Cavs] come back here February 11th. Well, that's when Paul Pierce is having his number retired, so you can't do it then. And again, cherry picking when they're going to have the video tribute ... this is more diva stuff, more catering. You know what, Isaiah? You are a footnote in Celtic history. That's what you are. It was a nice two and a half years, thank you very much. You're on your fourth team now. Good luck with it. But, you are not Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett or even Ray Allen. You were the best player here for a couple of years when the team was transitioning. Thank you for your service. See you later. And we'll give you that tribute when we feel like it, not when you dictate.
Chris Gasper: I do think he has an inflated sense of his importance in Celtic history. Look, he was instrumental in them being able to turn around and get to a point where they were a desirable destination. Al Horford's not here [otherwise]. Gordon Hayward said that Isaiah Thomas recruited him. They did win 53 games last year, the number one seed. He helped turn it around. But ... he didn't win any championships here. He never even went to a Finals. He was here for a couple of years. Last year was one of the great seasons, individually, a Celtic has had ... But the Celtics are not an organization that measures themselves that way. They measure it by championships.
"You know what, Isaiah? You are a footnote in Celtic history ... you are not Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett or even Ray Allen."Dan Shaughnessy
"Regardless of what his status is in Celtics history, I don't think you can deny that he did form an emotional bond with the fans and with the city."Chris Gasper
On the reception Isaiah Thomas will receive at the Garden
Chris Gasper: Regardless of what his status is in Celtics history, I don't think you can deny that he did form an emotional bond with the fans and with the city.
Dan Shaughnessy: Absolutely. The little guy!
Chris Gasper: And look, Boston's a sports city where we love the little guy. Whether it's Doug Flutie, Brad Marchand, Dustin Pedroia, we tend to embrace those little guys. And Isaiah Thomas was embraced here. No question about it ... the reality is, this guy did give his heart and soul while he was here.
Dan Shaughnessy: Absolutely. He will get a huge ovation tonight when he is introduced. They should be showing the tribute tonight, whatever. But yes, he's very worthy of the fans' love and it'll be unanimous. You won't hear any negativity there tonight.
On how the Celtics compare to the Cavaliers
Dan Shaughnessy: I still like the Cavs in a seven game series against the Boston Celtics because they just have so many guys. I watched a little bit of them last night and you see, you know, J.R. Smith's still sitting there and Korver coming off the bench. We know [Kevin] Love and LeBron. I forgot about Dwayne Wade being alive and he's out there with the ball in his hands a lot. Tristan Thompson's back playing. They are formidable. They are better than [the Celtics]. They have been better ... Take it one game at a time and this is one game tonight.
Chris Gasper: Look, maybe [the Celtics] get Gordon Hayward back at the end of the year, but who knows what he is after that broken ankle. They're one rotation guy short to me. Whether it's Lou Williams or Tyreke Evans, they need another scorer, particularly off the bench. And you really see it when Marcus Morris isn't healthy, and I think that knee is going to be an issue for him all year long. So, when you look at Cleveland and the Celtics, I think Cleveland, especially now that IT is back, they have more options to score the basketball and they have a deeper rotation.
On the weak AFC playoff field
Dan Shaughnessy: The Patriots are not that good. And, I say that every year right until the parade goes by my house, I get that. But, there's just no great teams and they are not a great team either. They are, most likely, the best of a bunch of OK teams.
Chris Gasper: They're the least flawed.
Dan Shaughnessy: And that's what we're facing here. I still have a lot of faith that Pittsburgh has as much or more talent in the Patriots—I believe they do. It's a mental thing with them; with the game in their hand in their own building, they still couldn't get it done a few weeks ago ... The AFC, in my view, did not have six playoff teams this year. They are submitting six. The rules say you have to do that and, therefore, you end up with the Bills, this stooge team.
On Kansas City being a dark horse candidate to challenge the Patriots
Chris Gasper: We all know Pittsburgh, if that's what it is in the AFC title game, but Kansas City might be the one team that could come in before the AFC title game and win. Obviously, they won the season opener. Still, Alex Smith [is] only 2-4 in the playoffs. I think it's different beating the Patriots here in September than it is in January. But, do you give Kansas City a shot if they come in here in the divisional round?
Dan Shaughnessy: I think Kansas City and Pittsburgh both have a chance. It would be a game if they came here and played. And I wouldn't say that about the other three if they came here and played a game against the Patriots ... We know that [the Chiefs] have somewhat of a track record. They did win here this year. It's the same guys. So, yes, I'm going to give them a fighting chance.
On the Red Sox's quiet offseason so far
Chris Gasper: They've been so quiet. They haven't done anything at this point. J.D. Martinez is out there. Bob Nightingale of USA Today had a report that the Red Sox have a five year deal on the table for J.D. Martinez. We don't know what the numbers are. Do the Red Sox need J.D. Martinez both for buzz purposes and for baseball purposes?
Dan Shaughnessy: Well, there's no buzz around the Red Sox. They changed managers right after the season and that's been it! You know, resign Mitch Moreland, bring in a new craft beer, these kinds of things really aren't lighting up the fan base. So, I don't know if they want to do something for the sake of doing something. They have a gap in power, we know that. But they're drawing a line here, whether it's luxury tax threshold or not getting stuck on seven years, or the stare-down with [Scott] Boras and Dave Dombrowski—I don't know what it is. I think that this is your team, the team you're looking at now.
Chris Gasper: Is that team good enough? I mean, they won 93 games last year. Is that good enough with internal improvement from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts?
Dan Shaughnessy: It's okay. [They] certainly can contend as long as the Yankees don't get [Manny] Machado. That would be a deal breaker. If Machado goes to the Yanks before the season then this thing is over and you start thinking about rebuilding.