WALTHAM, Mass. — Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas is eligible for an extension of his current deal this summer but said Friday that he’s OK with waiting until he reaches unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018 if that can help the Celtics improve now.
Thomas is set to enter the final year of a four-year, $ 27 million contract he inked before being traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2014. He’s scheduled to make just $ 6.3 million during the 2017-18 season, be a salary less than what the Celtics will pay the No. 1 overall pick ($ 7 million at 120 percent of the rookie scale).
Thomas, who was involved heavily in Boston’s free-agent recruiting process last summer, including traveling with the team to make a pitch to Kevin Durant in the Hamptons, said he hasn’t talked potential targets yet with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. But Thomas acknowledges that the Celtics need more talent.
“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.
“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”
While Thomas has joked in the past that, with his emergence as one of the NBA’s elite offensive players, he’s ready for the Celtics to “bring out the Brink’s truck,” he stressed Friday that he can wait patiently for that payday.
“No, that time will come,” said Thomas. “Whatever happens, happens. I’ve proved myself. The world knows what I bring to the table and I can’t do anything to control anything else. So whatever happens this summer with contracts, it happens. If not, then we’ll wait until next summer and then we’ll see where we go.”
The Celtics should have ample cap space this summer but would prefer to spend that money on a big-name free agent that could help narrow the gap between Boston and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. Thomas admitted he’d listen to extension talks but won’t be upset if the Celtics ultimately use available dollars to better the team.
“[An extension] means more money? Yeah, I would love that,” quipped Thomas. “But if it don’t happen, I’m the last person to be bothered by that. I know everything happens for a reason so, when my time comes, I know it will come and God will bless me.”
Despite his claim that the Celtics “definitely need more” talent, Thomas celebrated the strides made by the Celtics this season, including earning the No. 1 seed in the East and advancing to the conference finals before bowing to the Cavaliers in five games. Thomas said he’d like to see management keep much of the team intact but find a way to add at least one more impact player.
With the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Celtics could add a young talent like Markelle Fultz, a friend of Thomas’, who might simply take some time to develop and still have money to pursue a free agent. If the Celtics are committed to signing Thomas long-term next summer, he might be on board with that plan in hopes of building a sustainable contender.
The 28-year-old Thomas reaffirmed that he can see himself in Boston deep into the future but knows the Celtics have difficult decisions looming with both Thomas and guard Avery Bradley set to reach unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018. Both players could command big-money deals at that point.
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life. I would love to be here long term and win championships here,” said Thomas. “But, as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. And I know that. So I understand that. But I’d love to be here. This has been everything to me.”
When asked about the suggestion that the Celtics were better without him after they rallied to win Game 3 against the Cavaliers while Thomas was sidelined by a hip injury, he dismissed the notion.
“It’s always something. I’m fine with it though. That’s been my whole life,” said Thomas. “I remember earlier this year I got hurt and we beat Orlando by like 30 and [pundits] were like, ‘Maybe he shouldn’t come back.’
“I kind of laugh at it now the people who say stupid things like that. But it is what it is. You can’t please everybody, and I’m happy for my teammates though. Game 3 and we almost had Game 4, I was at home cheering and getting even more hyped, jumping up. So, this team, I love this team and I don’t think anybody in this organization would think this team is better without me. I don’t even think my teammates would say that. That’s just the confidence we have in each other. But I’ll leave that to other people who think that.”