Your Morning Dump… Where Isaiah had a birthday, and everyone gave him the perfect gifts


Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.

Isaiah Thomas turned 28 yesterday, and the birthday gifts have been rolling in since the weekend.

  • And then there was this “wow” moment:

  • Finally, Isaiah is the subject of an in-depth feature article in the new issue of Sports Illustrated, which dives deep into his early life to describe how he got here:

Since early childhood, Thomas has mixed his lack of height with a thunderous, unshakable drive. When he was between 10 and 14 years old, Isaiah would travel with his father, Keith, all over Tacoma for weekend pickup games—with adults. They would play at the People’s Community Center, at the Pearl Street YMCA and sometimes at McCord Air Force Base. “Isaiah was a little kid and most of the guys were grown men,” says Keith. “And Isaiah was cocky, and he had a smart mouth on him. He’d beat those guys and talk about it, and then they would want to fight him.” One night Thomas called his father from the lobby of the YMCA. “He said, ‘Dad, there’s a bunch of men outside waiting to fight me because I just beat them in a game,’ ” says Keith. Father picked up son and drove him home. Soon enough, it would happen again. Little boy kicking ass inside, big men waiting in the darkness for revenge.

At 16, Thomas moved across the country to play at tiny South Kent (Conn.) School, a way station for future college players. There was no shortage of talent or size. Thomas brought his attitude along with his game, “Isaiah was cocky and brash,” says Raphael Chillious, Thomas’s coach at South Kent. “Early on, a couple of the bigger guys came to me and said, ‘Man, that little guy, if he keeps talking trash every day, we’re gonna wring his neck.’” At the University of Washington, where Chillious became an assistant coach, a teammate would answer Thomas’s trash talk with a little of his own and then, says Chillious, “practice would become a game, and Isaiah would just go off.”

Sports Illustrated – Isaiah Thomas: The Boston Celtics’ Little Ticket

On one hand, IT is completely deserving of all this recognition. On the other hand, we don’t want him to get complacent and let that well-known chip fall off of his shoulder.

No need to worry, though. Tonight the Celtics are in Sacramento to play the Kings, a team that drafted Thomas but gave up on him. Thursday, there’s a rematch with Damian Lillard and Portland, who won in Boston last month. And soon, IT will return to the All-Star stage, likely with more confidence than last year, and knowing he came within an eyelash of being a starter. He loves these situations, where he has the chance to prove himself. Who doubts that he will?

Related: Globe – In return to Sacramento, Thomas playing like a king | Sacramento Bee – Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas gets the last laugh | – C’s Draw Motivation from Patriots’ Super Bowl Win

On Page 2: Winning plays

Ask Boston Celtics management and coaches, and it’s clear Smart’s intangibles and passion help foster victories. Around the NBA, team executives agree with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ observation: “Marcus impacts winning.” The Celtics are hitting their stride now as the All-Star break nears, and Smart and Jae Crowder, a budding all-around player, are leaders of the team’s scrappy, win-at-all-cost style.

So when Smart hears criticism about his shooting ability, he nods. He knows that wins serve as the remedy in Boston, and he controls the facets of the game that are instinctive. From the moment the Celtics drafted the point guard with the sixth overall pick in 2014, Smart’s defensive intensity afforded him minutes despite a developing jump shot. This season, Smart is the only player from his draft class averaging 30 minutes or more on a playoff team (30.7).

The Vertical – The fire of Marcus Smart: ‘I just try to want it more than the other guy’

When discussing potential trades, a persistent question is: who to give up, Smart or Avery Bradley? I’ve struggled with that, because I like both, especially their defense. But the scales have been tipped by the Celtics getting hot while AB has been injured. That might be unfair to Avery, but it’s helped me conclude that Smart is the better option long-term.

This is aside from any contract differences; it’s strictly about what they bring to the court. Bradley has improved immensely the last two seasons, and he was also first-team All-Defense last season. He’s a clutch shooter and averaging career highs this season in points, rebounds, assists, and shooting on both twos and threes. The Celtics will benefit when he comes back.

Yet, Smart is a force who, as noted by Stevens, makes winning plays every night. He does things no one else does, like ripping the ball out of a big man’s hands to start a fast break, or taking it personally when Nick Young is clowning in the first quarter. As poorly as he shoots, he will still make clutch baskets, like the game-deciding three on Christmas Day in New York.

Simply put, Smart’s skills would be more difficult to replace than Bradley’s. Agree or disagree? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

On Page 3: Bradley out again, hmmm

What exactly is going on here? Is this injury worse than the Cs are letting on?:

Related: MassLive – Boston Celtics injuries: Avery Bradley could be out through All-Star break

In other personnel news about tonight: After his collision Sunday with Jaylen Brown, Jonas Jerebko looks like he lost a prizefight, but he will play in Sacramento:

But Boogie will not:

And, finally: ‘Oh, really?’

Do yourself a favor and hang in for the full minute.


The Rest of the Links:

CSNNE – Brown’s Improved Defense Has Helped Fuel Celtics’ Recent Success

Herald – Celtics notebook: More members in the Isaiah Thomas fan club

MassLive – 2017 NBA Mock Draft: Markelle Fultz to Boston Celtics, ESPN’s Chad Ford projects | Boston Celtics trade rumors 2017: Team has explored market for several big men, according to report

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