PHOENIX — With his expiring contract and his ability to come off the bench and score points in bunches, guard Marcus Thornton knew he was a prime candidate to be traded from the Celtics before last Thursday’s trade deadline.
So Thornton tried to track the movement as best he could, and then a surprising source told him he had been shipped to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Isaiah Thomas.
“I had my phone in my hands, seeing everything going on,” Thornton said Monday night, “and as soon as I put my phone down, Tayshaun [Prince] picked his up and said, ‘You’re gone.’ I said, ‘Man, that’s crazy.’ A crazy turn of events.”
Thornton said it felt “kind of weird” to be facing his old team so soon, but is adjusting to his new surroundings quickly. Suns coach Jeff Hornacek hinted that playing time would probably be at a premium for Thornton in the near term.
“We’re kind of loaded at the 2 spot,” Hornacek said. “We have five guys, so it makes it tough.”
Thornton played eight minutes off the bench Monday. He finished with 3 points, making just 1 of 5 shots from the floor, and missing all three of his 3-point attempts.
Before the game, the Celtics delivered Thornton’s old Celtics road jersey to him. They also gave former Celtic Brandan Wright his old road jersey.
Thornton said he will keep fond memories of Boston.
“Fans were great,” he said. “They’re very passionate about the team and they love their team. It was great.”
Thomas had a sparkling Celtics debut in the overtime loss to the Lakers on Sunday night, tallying 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. But he was ejected with 5:27 left in regulation after being whistled for consecutive technical fouls.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he was told that Thomas received the first technical for slamming the ball on the floor, and the second for rolling it to the official. Thomas left the locker room Sunday night without speaking to reporters, but he addressed the incident before Monday’s game against the Suns.
“I was surprised, probably like everyone else,” Thomas said. “I did show some emotion. I deserved the first technical, but I didn’t think I deserved the second one.”
Thomas said he didn’t say anything to the referee, but admitted that his emotions were probably too high.
“We all play with emotion. I let mine get the best of me,” Thomas said. “I just apologized to the guys [after the game] and told them that I’m sorry for that, because I feel like maybe if I did continue to play, we would’ve won the game.”
Hornacek spoke highly of Thomas, who signed a four-year deal with Phoenix this summer but was traded to the Celtics last week.
“He’s a scorer, and you have to have a knack to be a scorer,” Hornacek said. “You’ve got to know when you can get the shot off, when you can’t. [He has] an ability to drive to the basket at such a small size. Yeah, he gets some of them blocked, but he’s also able to draw some fouls.”
Hornacek said that in Phoenix, the Suns simply had too many point guards, as Thomas was stuck behind Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
“The difference is Avery Bradley can play off the ball,” Hornacek said. “Marcus Smart is not necessarily the scoring point guard. It was just probably too many guys for us that do the same thing . . . that’s why it was tough. There, he’s different than the other two guys, I think, so he’ll be fine.”
With forward Jared Sullinger out for the season with a stress fracture in his left foot, the return of 7-footer Kelly Olynyk becomes increasingly important. Olynyk has been sidelined with a sprained ankle since Jan. 22, but Stevens has targeted the end of the upcoming three-game homestand for Olynyk’s possible return.
“He’ll be evaluated and put through the rigors a little bit more when we get back,” Stevens said.
Tyler Zeller and Brandon Bass were the only bigs to play Monday night.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.