BOSTON (CBS) — Isaiah Thomas took a giant step last season, becoming the offensive leader the Boston Celtics needed.
For the 2016-17 season, he wants to take that leadership even further. While no team captain has been officially named, it’s a role Thomas wants to fill whether he receives the title or not.
“I want to be [the guy],” Thomas told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Jon Wallach at Celtics Media Day. “They haven’t named it, so no, I’m not the guy. To myself, I am the guy.”
His leadership was on full display over the offseason, as Thomas led the charge in Boston’s free agent pitch to Kevin Durant. While Durant ultimately joined the Golden State Warriors, it’s not something that bothers Thomas as much as some of his teammates.
“I didn’t care,” he said of Durant’s decision. “Once we go out there and play, that’s all out the window anyways.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was part of Boston’s pitch to Durant, giving Thomas a chance to get to know the four-time Super Bowl champ.
“Coolest dude I ever met. He is just so cool,” said Thomas. “I was expecting him to be different. A lot of great players are kind of (not very nice). He answered every question I had and was a fan of mine too. He was a great dude. I asked him about his eating ways, how he’s playing at such a high level at such an older age. He answered every question, had questions for us about basketball, how we go about our days on game day and how we scout other teams. I asked about when he hikes the ball, what are you looking at? He explained it and was very friendly.”
Thomas said you can’t tell just how down-to-earth Brady is from his interactions with the media and his fire on the football field.
“You only see little snippets of what he does. You can’t really define who he is by what you see on TV or in the media. He was super cool, and I didn’t think he was going to be like that,” said Thomas. “We text every few weeks — that’s crazy, right? He is someone I can reach out to about anything.”
Thomas led the way for a Boston team that won 48 games, averaging 22.2 points per contest, but admits that a second straight first-round exit from the playoffs is not a sign of progress. He and the rest of the team are determined to make those next steps forward this season.
“Here in Boston, that is no improvement. They’re used to championships and getting far in the playoffs, so that was no improvement at all,” he said of the first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks. “To me, as an individual, we’re better than that.”
While the team just had their first practice on Tuesday, there has been a lot of talk about the postseason expectations with the team. Many pundits are expecting big things from the C’s, picking them to put up a fight with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference crown.
“Why not? We showed we can compete against the best teams in the NBA and we can do that on a nightly basis,” Thomas said of those expectations. “We don’t want to put a ceiling on it, but we’re going to go control what we can control, give it our all every night and let the cards fall where they may.
“We’re ready. This is going to be a big year for us.”