Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas completed a whirlwind tour of Boston on Thursday, completing numerous media interviews, handing out free ice cream bars at Faneuil Hall, and meeting with children at the Roxbury YMCA.
Many of these appearances were previously scheduled, but there was no doubt that Thomas brought a timely message to each stop for anyone who asked: He has done all he can to recruit forward Kevin Durant, who would officially become a free agent at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, and he is prepared to do even more.
“We’re just going to do what we can to try to seal the deal,” Thomas said. “And hopefully we can get in his ear. And maybe he’s a Celtic, maybe he’s not. But we’re going to try. And I’m going to try.”
This was no new plea from Thomas. He has spent much of the past month stumping for Durant and texting Durant and hoping for Durant. But time is of the essence, and even though it remains quite likely that the 2014 NBA MVP will remain with the Thunder, the Celtics are at least one of the handful of teams scheduled to have individual meetings with him.
“I don’t know if you can say anything to convince him,” Thomas said. “He’s his own man. I don’t know if he even has his own decision already and he just wants to hear people out. But we just have to be as real as possible. He’s a fan of the game. He knows the game of basketball. He’s talked to me about how exciting it is to watch us on NBA League Pass and things like that. So he knows.”
Thomas said Durant was actually the one to say how he really enjoys the city of Boston and considers it a great sports town. It is possible if not probable that those were simply niceties, but the Celtics will embrace all signs of hope.
After his final appearance of the day celebrating the opening of a renovated teen center at the Roxbury YMCA, Thomas said he planned to go to the Celtics’ training facility to meet with team executives about the possibility of joining them when they travel to New York to woo Durant this weekend.
Of course, the Celtics’ free agency maneuvers will hardly end with this pursuit, regardless of the outcome. Thomas said he has also reached out to Hawks forward Al Horford, widely considered the No. 2 prize of this summer, and told him that he would like him to join the Celtics.
“He texted me back,” Thomas said. “He said, ‘I’m a fan of how you guys play. I’m a fan of your game and would love the opportunity, but we’ll see what happens.’ The time is crazy for those types of guys right now, so you never know what would happen, but guys know about Boston. Guys are definitely talking Boston. And that’s a good thing.”
Decision day approaches
The Celtics must also soon decide how to proceed with forwards Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko, who have nonguaranteed contracts next season. According to a league source, it is likely that Boston will soon guarantee Johnson’s $12 million deal. That would not necessarily mean that he is sure to be on the team’s roster next season, as the reasonable contract would be an attractive trade chip to a team needing to fill salary cap space. Jerebko is in line to receive $5 million next year, a bargain as the cap balloons to $94 million, so there is reason to believe his deal will be guaranteed, too.
Turner testing waters
A league source said that Celtics unrestricted free agent Evan Turner has already scheduled meetings with several teams, but it was unclear if Boston was one of them. Another source said Boston on Thursday officially extended a qualifying offer to center Tyler Zeller, making him a restricted free agent. It is expected that the same was done for forward Jared Sullinger.
But the Celtics have long promised to be aggressive during this free agency period, and now that it has finally arrived, they can get started.
“I just hope we get a few more pieces,” Thomas said. “I think that’s what we need. I think that would be the next steps for us, and then we go from there. I’ve got a lot of trust in Danny [Ainge] and those guys in the front office, because that’s their job, that’s what they do. And they know what they’re getting themselves into. So I’m just trying to do my part with telling people how special Boston is. And then hopefully they listen.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com.