Last October, a faraway month when Isaiah Thomas was rehabbing a hip injury as the newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a story appeared in Sports Illustrated about the former Boston Celtics guard. In it Thomas revealed his anger with Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, who traded a player he considered his friend to Cleveland as part of a deal for Kyrie Irving. While Thomas said he’d have only “love” for Boston and Celtics fans, he admitted he was still upset at Ainge over the trade.
“I might never talk to Danny again,” Thomas told Lee Jenkins in the piece. The quote quickly spread throughout the NBA, many making that the main takeaway from a feature that talked about just how much Thomas’ life was upended by the sudden transaction.
Later that day, Danny Ainge spoke to reporters and was told what Thomas had said. The interview was caught on tape and soon posted online. It was clear that he had not read the piece, and we got to see in real time how that quote impacted him. You could see the disappointment wash over his face for a moment as he prepared a response to Thomas’ words.
“Did he, really?” Ainge asked, looking away for a moment to weigh what to say in response.
“You know, that’s the hard part of the job,” he said after that pause. “I know that there’s a lot of feelings that go on when these type of things happen. He was a player that was traded twice, so I understand his sentiments but he doesn’t know how much I love Isaiah. He’s a great kid and I wish him the best.”
Ainge meant what he said, and he’s made it clear that he cares a lot about Isaiah Thomas the person despite trading him away from his basketball team. It was business, after all, and Ainge is paid to do what’s best for the Boston Celtics.