Isaiah Thomas Explains How Danny Ainge Told Him He Was Traded Without Warning
It’s still almost unbelievable that the Boston Celtics traded the guy who was the face of their franchise after leading the team back to the Conference Finals this past season—somewhere they haven’t been since Garnett, Allen, and Pierce wore the uniform.
In a riveting piece in The Players’ Tribune, Thomas explains how much it still hurts that he was traded from a franchise that he gave everything to. And what made it worse is how Danny Ainge broke the news to him.
Danny left a text.
“IT, call me when you can.”
Sounds dramatic, but that’s actually a pretty normal text from Danny. Could’ve been about all sorts of things. So I called him back, still driving and not really thinking much of it. He knew I’d been on my trip, so he asked me a few questions about it. I’m sure I asked him how he was, maybe how the family was doing. Again, you know, just that normal sort of talk.
And then somewhere in there, it was just like … it was barely anything. This little pause in the conversation. And that’s when he told me.
“I just traded you.”
Simple as that. No big words, no big speech. Though I guess when it comes to shit like that, there’s not much more to say.
“To where.” That’s all I could manage.
“To the Cavaliers, for Kyrie.”
And that’s when, like — man. You ever been on the phone, and someone says something … and then all of a sudden, all you can think about after is, I don’t want to be on the phone anymore? Not even in a rude way. Just, like, your willpower to have a conversation shuts down. That’s what it was like for me in that moment.
Thomas also talked about how fans shouldn’t be so quick to turn on an athlete when they choose to leave via free agency. Why? Because no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you leave out there on the court, a team could always trade you whenever they want, wherever they want.
He went on to use Kevin Durant leaving OKC to sign with the Golden State Warriors as an example.
Of course I get it: This is a business. Danny is a businessman, and he made a business move. I don’t agree with it, just personally, and I don’t think the Boston Celtics got better by making this trade. But that’s not my job. That’s Danny’s. And it’s a tough job, and he’s been really good at it. But at the end of the day, these deals just come down to one thing: business. So it’s no hard feelings on that end. I’m a grown man, and I know what I got into when I joined this league — and so far it’s been more blessings than curses. I’m not sitting here, writing this, because I feel I was wronged. I wasn’t wronged. It was Boston’s right to trade me.
Plus, in a lot of ways, I actually think this was a good lesson. Not only for me, but for the league as a whole. And for the fans and the media, too, you know, just in terms of how they talk about guys changing teams. I was thinking about that last year with KD and his free agency — about how people gave him such a hard time for doing what he felt was best for him and his future. How they turned him into a villain, just for doing what was his right to do as a free agent in this league. Suddenly, it was, “Oh, he’s selfish,” or, “Oh, he’s a coward.” Suddenly, just for doing business on his end, and doing right by himself, he was portrayed as this bad guy.
But that’s what I think my trade can show people. I want them to see how my getting traded — just like that, without any warning — by the franchise that I scratched and clawed for, and bled for, and put my everything on the line for? That’s why people need to fix their perspective. It’s like, man — with a few exceptions, unless we’re free agents, 99 times out of 100, it’s the owners with the power. So when players are getting moved left and right, and having their lives changed without any say-so, and it’s no big deal … but then the handful of times it flips, and the player has control … then it’s some scandal? Just being honest, but — to me, that says a lot about where we are as a league, and even as a society. And it says a lot about how far we still have to go.
And like I said, there’s no hard feelings. But I just hope that the next time a player leaves in free agency, and anybody wants to jump on him or write a critical story or a nasty tweet about him, maybe now they’ll think twice. Maybe they’ll look around the league, look at a case like mine, and remember that loyalty — it’s just a word. And it’s a powerful word if you want it to be. But man … when it comes to business, it ain’t nothing to count on.
At the end of the day, owners and general managers are looking out for what’s best for the team, so athletes should start doing the same for themselves.