When the Boston Celtics lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 116-102 on Monday, Isaiah Thomas called it and criticized coach Brad Stevens’ rotation, telling reporters that “we can’t be experimenting in Game 63.” Thomas downplayed his frustration afterward and Stevens said he wasn’t upset because the star guard reached out to him, but the comments caused a meeting with Celtics president Danny Ainge.
“Nobody prepares more for a game than Brad,” Ainge told the Herald, “not even Isaiah, who really prepares. Players don’t know what it’s like to coach. I took Isaiah’s comments as frustration. He hates to lose. But good leaders don’t look for blame. It’s easy to lead when things are going well. It’s much more difficult when adversity strikes. And everyone will face adversity.
“I know Brad is a great coach -- even one of the best -- but that doesn’t mean he won’t make a mistake, just like great players do. But I know he will learn from his mistakes because he doesn’t look to place blame but looks internally for what he can do to maximize his talent.”
That last comment can be taken as a hint for Thomas.
“I talk with Isaiah about becoming a better leader, and I think he can and will develop into one,” said Ainge. “He, too, will learn from this.”
Perhaps this take is influenced by the fact that the Celtics Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on Wednesday, but I just don’t see this as a big deal. A player let his emotions get the best of him after a loss, then he and his coach talked through it. The president then spoke to the player about leadership and framed it as a teachable moment. It was a relatively minor mistake, and everybody did what was supposed to be done afterward. Boston has already moved on.the
One thing to note: Thomas’ ascension has been extremely fast. He made his first All-Star appearance last season, but he started that season as the Celtics’ sixth man. Now he’s a fringe MVP candidate on the team that has the East’s second-best record. Thomas has always believed in himself and wanted to be a leader, but he has also been used to being overlooked, undervalued and having to prove himself over and over. It makes sense that there would be a few bumps on the road as he becomes comfortable in his new role.