Look, being an executive in the NBA is not easy. It’s a high stakes business. Nobody knows this more than Danny Ainge. Every decision you make has implications — trades, firings, draft day decisions — they impact lives and families, they don’t just mess up some geek’s fantasy roster or jersey collection. And as hard as the decision had to have been for Ainge to blow-up the Celtics’ last championship roster — to ship out Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for the three Brooklyn first rounder’s that rebooted this roster, trading Isaiah Thomas might have been even harder.
Because Isaiah Thomas is everything you want in a basketball player. He was the heart of the Celtics. And even if he was only in Boston for 2.5 years, that guy in that town was a perfect fit. So before you clown the next pro athlete who picks up and leaves a city for a pay raise or an extra year on his contract, REMEMBER this trade.
Remember that I.T. put his contract on the back burner to get the Gordon Hayward deal done — the one that pays him just 6 million and change a year when guys doing half as much are making three times that jack. Remember That I.T. put together that monster season and slid into hero-mode for the postseason. Carried the Cs on his back when the rest of the offense broke down. Played through the death of his sister — dropping 53 on her birthday in an all-time gut check performance. On a bum hip. After getting a chicklet blasted out of his mouth.
And don’t think the NBA wasn’t watching. Hell, there wasn’t an NBA Player who DIDNT tweet about this trade. And the reaction tells you all you need to know about the game through the guys who are living it. Namely, something I’ve always said: THERE PRETTY MUCH IS NO LOYALTY AT ALL, IN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. AND IF IT DOES EXIST, ANYWHERE, IN ANY SPORT, YOU HAVE TO LOOK PRETTY DAMN HARD TO FIND IT. BUT JOURNEYMAN Quincy Pondexter doesn’t think so: he tweeted: Loyalty Loyalty Loyalty. That’s a guy who won “2017 TEAMMATE OF THE YEAR in the NBA Players Association’s annual awards. And then there’s Kevin Durant, who has seen his share of blowback for the decision he made to head to Golden State — and ignite all this craziness in the first place.
KD is prolific on Twitter. 16.7 MILLION FOLLOWERS. Almost 23,000 tweets. But only 83 likes. But he clicked the heart last night for THIS TWEET: “Celtics traded a guy who played in a game for them a day after his sister died, but y’all expect players to be loyal to a franchise, sure.”
Again — This is the business they chose. And it’s a lucrative one. And that business is business. And that Danny Ainge has a job to do. And that’s to build the best possible team he can. And that the Celtics may in fact, be better now than they were at the end of the season, a season where they led the Eastern Conference in wins. But while business is business, this is a business with no loyalty. Think of that the next time you want to kill a guy for jumping to another team as a free agent because he’s looking to improve his situation.
You know, just like Ainge was looking to improve the Celtics. Next time, think of Isaiah Thomas. Because this guy put it all out there, and laid everything on the line for the team and its fans. And what did that get him. Traded.