Isaiah Thomas is 5-9, 185 pounds. And yet, he is second in the NBA in scoring with 29.4 points per game. He’s also averaging 6.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds and has been far and away the best player on a team that, in the span of seven days, beat Cleveland and won at Golden State.
For Sean Grande, there’s only one word to describe Thomas’ season.
“Unprecedented,” the Celtics radio voice said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Early in the year, I described it as – it’s a little bit lazy – but you started using Iverson as a natural comparison. Then you realize he’s doing things that Iverson never did – and no one has ever done. He had this run of games in January when he turned TD Garden from an NBA stop into a Broadway show. People knew exactly what was going to happen every night. They just came out to see this big finish they had been hearing about. The star of the show would belt out this finale and score 17 points in the fourth quarter and the Celtics would win. It’s hard to find a player – forget the size for a second – a player who has taken such dramatic strides forward to become an elite player in the league. That doesn’t happen very much.”
The Celtics (41-24), by the way, are just 2.5 games behind Cleveland (42-20) in the East. The No. 1 seed is still very much up for grabs, and Thomas is firmly in the MVP discussion.
“Say whatever you want about him defensively,” Grande said. “In a year in which we’re talking about James Harden being an MVP candidate – and for some people, the front-runner – then I think it’s certainly fair to say that defense is not a top priority here. (If it’s about) the best players on the best teams, how is he not (an MVP candidate)?”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, meanwhile, is a strong candidate for Coach of the Year. His stiffest competition may be Erik Spoelstra, who has Miami (31-34) within a half game of a playoff spot.
“I said that Miami was going to have the worst record in the league,” Grande said. “They were 11-30. At 11-30, I’m thinking, ‘There’s no motivation for Miami to stay in the thing, so they’ll start tanking games.’”
Instead, Miami is 20-4 in its last 24 games.
“Erik Spoesltra would not be denied,” Grande said. “I think when someone’s been around for a while and they’re not the new kid on the block, you don’t think of them that way. But Erik Spoelstra is elite elite.”