“I don’t know what he’s referring to,” Ainge said during his weekly appearance on Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub. “I would prefer to have more information on what Isaiah may be referring to. As you remember, he had a pretty special playoff run, including a 53-point game, but I really don’t remember what he’s referring to.
“You guys know how much I love and appreciate Isaiah. I’m very excited that he’s returning to the court very shortly. It looks like he’s really healthy, from everything I’ve been reading and hearing. I couldn’t be more excited for him. I will always appreciate him. I really don’t have any comment on any of that other stuff, because I’m not sure how to interpret that.”
Specifically, what Thomas was referring to in an interview with ESPN that aired on Christmas was a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking about the hip injury that cost him the last four games of the playoffs and the first three months of this season. He told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that, had he known the risk of playing with the existing injury he aggravated in March, he would have sat out the playoffs.
“I do wish I had more information,” Thomas added in response to a question specifically about the medical staff. “It was never, ‘This can be something that can possibly shut you down for a while,’ because if that was the case, then I definitely wouldn’t have played.”
Thomas didn’t directly blame the Celtics’ medical staff, but that was the inference most took from it, and maybe Ainge isn’t willing to make that leap publicly, since he also told The Sports Hub that Thomas sought a second opinion on the hip outside of the organization. It’s unclear when Thomas saw an outside doctor — before or after re-aggravating twice during this past spring’s playoff run.
In his weekly appearance, Ainge did clear up some other speculation about whether the team’s parting ways with longtime trainer Ed Lacerte and strength coach Bryan Doo during the offseason had anything to do with the fallout from Thomas’ hip injury. “Not at all,” said Ainge. “Totally unrelated.”
After playing through injury and his sister’s death during the playoffs, Thomas has criticized Ainge for his handling of the trade, which has only added to the drama of the two-time All-Star potentially returning from injury against the Celtics on Jan. 3. All signs point to Thomas’ return being imminent, and the C’s TV partner, NBC Sports Boston, has already begun promoting the game as a homecoming:
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) December 27, 2017
But Cleveland.com poured some cold water on that possibility Beat reporter Joe Vardon relayed on Wednesday that Cavs coach Tyronn Lue ruled Thomas out for Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz, before leaving the door open a crack, depending on a Friday practice featuring Thomas in full contact.
Following the game against the Jazz, the Cavaliers have a pair of off days before playing the Portland Trail Blazers and Celtics in a home-and-road back-to-back on Jan. 2 and 3. Should Thomas debut against the Blazers in Cleveland, he would almost certainly rest against the Celtics the following night.
According to Vardon, both the Cavs and Thomas are wary to begin his season against “a marquee opponent,” and a matchup with his old team in Boston opposite Kyrie Irving on ESPN would certainly qualify. The last thing Thomas wants to do is get torched by Irving at TD Garden in his Cavs debut. On the other hand, the only thing Thomas probably wants is to dominate Irving in a victory in Boston.
All of which makes more interesting the news that Nike will be unveiling a special edition sneaker in Thomas’ honor on Jan. 6, when the Cavs happen to be playing the Orlando Magic in a lowkey game.
— J23 iPhone App (@J23app) December 26, 2017
So, the drama continues, and Ainge would prefer to stay out of it.
– – – – – – –