Friday, January 27, 2017

All Eyes on Isaiah

I.T. can have many different meanings.

For most people, “Information Technology” probably comes to mind. Anybody who has worked in a restaurant might think of “Iced Tea,” while seasoned travelers may envision “Italy.”

But in Boston, I.T. stands for Hope.

Isaiah Thomas’ season numbers are staggering.

29.1 points per game, leads the Eastern Conference.

9.8 points scored off the drive per game, leads the NBA.

10.1 fourth quarter points per game, currently leads all players, this season and every season, since individual quarters first became tracked twenty years ago.

“The King in the Fourth” is the Celtics’ most prolific scorer in recent memory. He might even be their best scorer ever.

Playing in his second full season in Boston, the 5-foot-9 underdog, who once saw 59 players drafted ahead of him in 2011, has catapulted himself into elite status.

With astonishing finishing ability and sharp fluctuations of speed, Thomas baffles defenders and seemingly scores at will during crunch time.

His relentless dribble-drive penetration is balanced with a lethal pull-up jumper, and he is shooting 42% from beyond the arc in the final frame.

Thomas has singlehandedly transformed his Celtics into the highest scoring fourth quarter offense. They also have the second best fourth quarter point differential.

When he met with reporters on Thursday after being named to his second consecutive All-Star game, Thomas spoke from the heart.

"It’s stuff you dream of as a little kid… to be the guard and play for the Celtics and for them to be chanting MVP, it doesn’t seem real. So I’m just, for now, I’m staying in the moment. I’m embracing it. These fans are everything to me."

Thomas has restored the Celtics' identity as a physical and hardworking team, and they now trail the Cavaliers by just 3.5 games.

With trade rumors swirling, perhaps Danny Ainge will find a way to complement his star point guard with a bigtime frontcourt playmaker (like Blake Griffin), which would immediately shift Boston’s narrative from playoff-bound to title-hungry.

Thomas ices fourth quarters, but he recognizes his team's need for more fire in the first half.

After aggressively recruiting Al Horford during last year’s All-Star weekend, Thomas nearly helped Boston land Kevin Durant as well. Durant arguably would have put the Celtics atop the East.

Nevertheless, Thomas is extremely well-liked around the league. He will have plenty to chat about with his fellow All-Stars next month, especially with Boston rapidly climbing in the standings.

In the meantime, players and fans are quickly realizing that I.T. stands for hope. And for heart.

For overcoming adversity and striving to be great.

For winning streaks and MVP chants.

For Celtics Pride and a chance to make history.

For the underdog. For the Little Guy.

And perhaps one day soon...

For champion.