Isaiah Thomas has played for three NBA teams in just over one year, so he understands the fickle nature of his industry. Even though the point guard was the catalyst behind the Celtics’ improbable resurgence, even though he electrified TD Garden and helped make his new franchise relevant again, he knew an active offseason was looming. And that could bring uncertainty, even for him.
Thomas lived in a hotel after being acquired in a February trade with the Suns, and he has still yet to purchase or even lease a home in Boston, so it has been difficult to get past a feeling of temporariness. But a recent conversation with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was both comforting and compelling.
“Danny said if there’s any free agent out there I’m interested in, to let him know,” Thomas said by telephone. “That has me excited. For him to ask for my input means a lot, because it means I’m definitely, right now, a part of the future, and they also value your word and what you think about the game of basketball. It means a lot, and it’s a mutual respect we have. Now, hopefully, we can get a few guys.”
Thomas did not name specific players on his wish list during an interview with the Globe, but he said a rim-protecting big man would be at the top of it.
“A defensive-minded player,” he said. “It’d be nice to get one of those in the draft. A lot of the big men out there could definitely help us out. But I know Danny is always up to something.”
Thomas told Ainge he could be a valuable recruiter when free agency begins. Thomas said that when he played for the University of Washington, he helped persuade several high school prospects to join the Huskies.
Even though he only has been a Celtic for about three months, he has become familiar enough with the franchise’s rhythm to tout selling points. He was enchanted when he arrived here, even during a relentless and unforgiving winter.
“The history behind the Boston Celtics is what you want,” Thomas said. “And the city of Boston is definitely a sports city. They love their players and support their players. Really, everything you want in a basketball team and organization is here. It might not be Miami or LA with the weather, but what’s most important is the culture. And I can only imagine, when we really get good, what the city would be like.”
Thomas was flattered by the notion that he could become one of the Celtics’ cornerstones. But it is also obvious that if they are to evolve, if they are to have a winning record and take a playoff series and show that they are more than LeBron James’s punching bag, they will need help.
“I think we’re close to taking that next step,” Thomas said. “Definitely, adding a big piece to what we’re trying to do [would help]. I know Danny’s going to try to go after everybody that’s available, especially the high-level guys. I think if we can add a big piece, we can take that next step. People saw what we could do even without a so-called superstar. We held our own, for the most part, against Cleveland, and we weren’t expected to do anything.”
Thomas stressed that the current Celtics cannot simply wait around for reinforcements, though. He believes this is an important summer for the returning core to develop and improve, himself included.
He has been playing in light five-on-five pickup games at the University of Washington, and in about a week he will ramp up the intensity of his training.
He has been watching the NBA playoffs closely and has been intrigued by Warriors guard Stephen Curry’s ability to pass with either hand coming off pick-and-rolls. The lefthanded Thomas said he will work to develop that skill and become more fluid driving to his right. He also wants to finish plays quicker when he reaches the paint, and to extend his 3-point shooting range.
“I watch each and every game, and I definitely try to pick and choose what I want to take from different teams and different players,” Thomas said. “I’m a student of the game, and I always want to get better.”