WALTHAM — Before facing the Lakers on Wednesday, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas contacted one of Kobe Bryant’s confidants to request a brief meeting with Bryant, who was making his final appearance in Boston. Thomas hoped to simply say hello and perhaps have him sign a jersey.
“But he came and sat down and talked, just me and him, for like 20 minutes,” Thomas said Friday. “It was probably the best talk I’ve ever had.”
Thomas always has admired Bryant’s competitiveness and focus. He asked Bryant how he avoided distractions so effectively during his dominant career.
“He told me this story about how a lion seeks food, whatever he’s gonna kill and eat,” Thomas said. “And you know how many bugs are on the lion’s eyes and gnats on his body? He’s so locked in on that zebra that he doesn’t get distracted by anything else. He said if you get distracted by little things, then you’re not as locked in as you think you are. He said for me to be a lion, and that’s gonna stick with me the rest of my life.”
Thomas said Bryant made it clear that he admires his game, too, and that he would always be happy to offer advice, basketball-related or not.
“He even said, ‘If you need to know how to guard somebody, I know how to defend everyone, so just let me know,’ ” Thomas said.
“I was just like, ‘Don’t offer too much, because I’ll be reaching out to you all the time.’
“But it was an amazing time for me, just because that’s somebody I grew up on. I told him I’ve been watching him since I was 7. It was an amazing moment.”
As the Bruins and Canadiens faced off in the Winter Classic on Friday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said there were once at least cursory discussions about his team playing an outdoor basketball game someday.
“I’ve heard it being bounced around here, that we would do an outdoor game in early October or something to that nature,” Stevens said. “And that’d be fun if it was done right and you could ensure that the playing surface was as good as the playing surfaces we play on every day.”
Four college basketball games were played on aircraft carriers from 2011-12, but a combination of bad weather and on-court condensation from the bodies of water resulted in logistical problems and injury concerns, so the novelty quickly wore off.
Although the Celtics’ outdoor future remains unclear, Stevens made it very clear he will not be appearing in public on ice skates any time soon, as Patriots coach Bill Belichick did prior to the Winter Classic.
“Belichick deserves all the accolades he gets if he can get out on skates and do that,” Stevens said, smiling. “Because there’s no way. I would fall down anyways, but right when I knew I was being watched, I would be on the ground.”
The Celtics recalled rookies R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier after their one-game stays with the Maine Red Claws of the NBADL. Hunter, in his first D-League appearance of the season, had 28 points and 7 assists in a 119-112 win over the Texas Legends on Thursday. Rozier added 15 points and 13 assists to the winning cause
“I think those guys that haven’t played a lot, they lose wind pretty quickly and then they can catch it back in the second half,” Stevens said. “And it’s just good to get in a day like that.”
Rookie Jordan Mickey also had a noteworthy line Thursday, registering a triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 blocks.
Stevens said some of the team’s young players probably would have spent more time with the Red Claws in recent weeks if not for Marcus Smart missing 18 games with a knee injury. Hunter was limited in Friday’s practice because of a sore left shoulder, but he is expected to be fine.
The buzz surrounding Bryant’s final game in Boston partly concealed the fact that it was a bad loss for the Celtics, particularly on their home court. Los Angeles was just 6-27 going into Friday, and the Celtics had been riding a four-game winning streak. Celtics forward Amir Johnson said he thought his team played down to the opponent a bit.
“I feel like we were just relaxed from knowing their record,” Johnson said, “not knowing [that] every team plays hard . . . We just have to take every game serious.”