When Isaiah Thomas asked the Boston Celtics not to play a video tribute to him on Wednesday, so he could be in uniform for the Cleveland Cavaliers with his family in attendance at TD Garden on Feb. 11 when his former team honors his two-plus years of All-Star service, he came under fire from fans for trying to steal Paul Pierce’s spotlight, since the C’s legend will have his number retired the same night.
Thomas assured everyone that wasn’t his intention during a pregame interview at the Garden on Wednesday night, when he was resting his right hip after making his season debut the night before.
“That’s Pierce’s night,” he said, “but the video tribute ain’t the whole night. I just wanted my family to be here to see it. That’s what it came down to. I wanted to be able to play, and I wanted my family to experience the love and appreciation this city and this organization was going to give me on that night. When my representatives reached out to these guys, they were all for it, and they agreed on it.
“I don’t know why they’re so mad about it. I’m not taking nothing from Paul Pierce. He did 15 years here, so there’s nothing I can take from him. But if they choose to do it that night, that would be great, and I will be honored, and my family and friends can see how much they appreciated me here.”
And Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge seemed to be on the same page.
“I think Paul said it best: He’s going to be the appetizer, the main course and the dessert. I think that’s pretty funny,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday morning. “I think that it won’t interfere with Paul, and Paul understands. Everybody understands. It’ll be a great game and it’ll be a great moment, and Isaiah deserves it in our minds. We all love Isaiah and are grateful for him and all he’s done for us as well. Obviously, you can’t compare the two, but Isaiah has been very gracious through this whole process. He didn’t make any demands. He just had one request, and we granted him that request.”
Except, Pierce doesn’t seem to fully understand.
Well, then. Here I was thinking it wasn’t such a big deal that Thomas delayed his tribute video, that a few hours of adoration for Pierce could spare a few minutes of applause for another Celtics All-Star, but maybe I forgot just how prideful Hall of Famers can be. The same competitive drive that made that jersey retirement ceremony possible might discourage Pierce from sharing the stage on his night.
And maybe Thomas didn’t realize it, either. Both players can be in the right here. Thomas wasn’t sure he’d be unavailable for Cleveland’s first trip to Boston until a few days ago, and he might not have even known the Cavs’ second trip coincided with Pierce’s jersey retirement. He just wanted his night to be special, with him in uniform and his family in attendance. That’s not so much to ask, either.
It’s just dumb luck that the two tributes got mashed together. And what are we even talking about here? We’re talking about video tributes. Not a game. Video tributes. The Boston crowd will be cheering Thomas’ introduction regardless, just as they did when the Celtics flashed him on the Jumbotron between quarters on Wednesday, and they won’t cheer any less for Pierce as a result.