The 2008 Celtics, as petty as ever: 'What has [Isaiah Thomas] done?'

Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce are all wondering what’s so special about Isaiah Thomas. (AP)

The 2008 Boston Celtics are a prideful and petty bunch, and they earned that right, beating LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to deliver an 17th title and restore glory to a dormant once-great franchise. Paul Pierce, now an ESPN analyst, still belittles James at every opportunity, probably one reason why No. 34 will be retired to the TD Garden rafters when the Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 11.

The ’08 Celtics are so prideful and petty that they left Ray Allen off the invite list to a 10th anniversary celebration of the championship team, and Kevin Garnett, now a TNT commentator, actually hosted a TV show with Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis to explain why Allen’s move to join James on the Miami Heat in 2012 meant he was no longer considered “loyal and part of this group.”

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They’re so prideful and petty that they will let nothing, not even a 90-second tribute video to another beloved Celtics player during pregame warmups, stand in the way of a postgame retirement ceremony for one of their own. So it is that Pierce, Garnett, Rondo and Tony Allen are now all on record saying Isaiah Thomas is undeserving of such recognition on the same night the organization honors Pierce.

When the Cavs came to Boston earlier this month, Thomas asked the Celtics to postpone a planned tribute video to their next meeting at the Garden, when he would be in uniform and his family could attend. When Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge granted that request, neither he nor Thomas realized the delay would coincide with Pierce’s retirement ceremony or create such a stir.

When Thomas first became aware that a faction of Celtics fans felt the tribute video would steal shine from Pierce’s night, he told reporters in Boston, “That’s Pierce’s night, but the video tribute ain’t the whole night,” and added, “I don’t know why they’re so mad about it. I’m not taking nothing from Paul Pierce.” I, for one, agreed and figured that would be the end of a silly debate over tribute videos.

But when Pierce first became aware that the video would now also fall on Feb. 11, he agreed with that faction of Celtics fans, informing us on national TV that he had no interest in sharing his night with Thomas. “I’m not sure I want to look up at the JumboTron and see Isaiah highlights,” said Pierce.

Pierce received some blowback for his pride and pettiness, so he reconsidered, and then decided to call the equally prideful and petty Garnett for some unbiased advice. “Isaiah who?” said KG, according to Pierce’s retelling to ESPN. “Hell no, you’re damn right you’re not sharing your night with him.”

So, the 2008 NBA Finals MVP doubled down on Tuesday:

“Danny and I talked about it for 40 minutes,” Pierce told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan and Chris Forsberg. “He told me, ‘This is what we have planned,’ and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘If you don’t want us to do Isaiah, we won’t.’ So I told him, ‘I really don’t.’ So that was it.

“That’s how we left it.”

[…]

“(Thomas) had a shot to be honored,” added Pierce. “You came to Boston. Whether you are playing or not, you should have had your tribute then. I just don’t see how, if someone is having a jersey retirement, they’re going to be running other tributes for other players.

“Danny tried to sell me on it, but I told him, ‘He had a shot, Danny, and he punked you on it. He pretty much dictated everything.’ They let it happen because they felt sorry how (the trade to Cleveland) went down. It’s guilt. That’s what it is.”

Rondo and Tony Allen, the last two members of the ’08 Celtics still playing in the NBA, were in Boston as members of the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, and you will be shocked to learn they too sided with Pierce before beating their former team. Via The Worcester Telegram and Gazette’s Bill Doyle:



And via MassLive.com’s Jay King:

“Why would they do that?” Tony Allen asked of the planned Thomas tribute on Pierce’s night. “Yeah, I’m with Pierce, man. He didn’t put in more work than Pierce. Anybody disagree? OK. Paul Pierce put in big work, man. Why would they honor him on that same day, man?”

[…]

“Make it real short and sweet, man,” added Allen. “Let my man get his jersey retired, man. Let him embrace that, man. He put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this organization, man, and capitalized and had good results. Struggled with the team; I remember losing 19 straight with that man. Turned back around and won a championship. Talk about Paul Pierce, man, don’t mention his name, the guy’s name that don’t stand in the same frame. You know what I mean? So big salute to my boy Paul Pierce. My big brother. My homey. Ubuntu. NBA champion.”

Somehow, a conversation about whether or not the Celtics could play a 90-second pregame tribute video to Thomas and still properly celebrate Pierce’s postgame jersey retirement, complete with recognition for Pierce’s career at every opportunity when there wasn’t an actual basketball game being played without him, got flipped into a debate over Pierce vs. Thomas that nobody would argue.

Pierce is a Celtics legend. He played 15 years for the organization, earning Boston’s full respect over time by fulfilling his championship promise, and he is one of the 15 greatest scorers ever. Thomas is not that, even if he won the city over for risking his career to deliver one truly unforgettable season.

Celtics fans are fully capable of doling out the proper praise. It’s OK, Paul, they still love you more.

Coincidentally or not, Thomas declined the tribute video once and for all on Twitter during the Pelicans-Celtics game, hopefully saving Ainge from the awkwardness of having to rescind the offer.



Celtics fans, I presume, will still receive an extended ovation in Boston when he is introduced as Cleveland’s starting point guard on Feb. 11, whether or not a highlight package plays on the JumboTron above him. Pierce will then watch Thomas play 30 minutes of basketball against a first-place C’s team that neither of them are on, all while Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and company receive applause, too.

This is all so dumb, so prideful and petty, so 2008 Celtics, so modern NBA. But, hey, Ray Allen is invited on the 10th anniversary vacation now, according to party planner Rajon Rondo, so there’s that:


Time heals all wounds, I guess, so maybe Thomas will get his tribute video someday. Just not Feb. 11.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!