When you’re in an MVP race, it’s always nice to get some love from the greats to help sway voters in your favor. Recently, Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas got a nod from the recently retired Ray Allen.
Allen was recently a guest on The Rich Eisen Show, and he was asked for his opinion on the current MVP race.
“Right now, I’d have to say Isaiah Thomas.” Allen said. “I like Isaiah… You take him off that roster, I don’t know how successful they’d be.”
Judging by these comments, it seems Allen views the MVP in a very literal sense. He argues that without Isaiah, the Celtics wouldn’t be any good.
The assertion that the Celtics wouldn’t be good without Thomas is in contrast to several remarks made earlier in the season by Boston media personalities who thought the Celtics did just fine without Thomas during a stretch in December.
“11 assists on 13 buckets. Is it just me or does the ball move better without Isaiah Thomas?” tweeted Tony Massarotti, co-host of Felger and Mazz on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Comments like this seemed to irk Thomas, who was battling a groin injury and was forced to sit several games.
“They gotta write something. They say the stupidest things so they get the headlines and everybody can talk about it,” Thomas said. “I can’t control that. At this point, I laugh about it now. Because it’s like, if you really think that, OK, that’s fine. I know what I mean to my teammates, I know what I mean to this organization and to Brad Stevens.”
From that point on, Thomas went on an MVP-worthy stretch that not only catapulted the Celtics to second in the East, but launched Thomas right in the thick of the MVP race.
In early February, CBS Sports had Thomas in a three-way tie for first in the MVP race with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. At this time, Thomas was second in the league with 29.9 PPG and led the league in fourth quarter scoring. At the time, Bill Reuter of CBS Sports wrote “Will it last? No idea. But for the time being he belongs right here, in the mix for the MVP with Westbrook and Harden.”
Contrary to Bill Reuter’s nod to Thomas, Ray Allen’s remarks come at a time when hype around a potential MVP title for Thomas seems to be cooling down outside of Boston media.
Since Reuter’s article was published on February 8, the narrative of the MVP race seems to have changed. That same source, CBS Sports, published a lengthy article today detailing a new tie for first: LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden. In a feature-length article with over twenty paragraphs, Isaiah Thomas was not mentioned once. What gives?
Part of the reason Thomas has faded out of MVP contention is that a lot of people suddenly remembered that Kawhi Leonard is really good. Leonard and the Spurs’ rise in the Western Conference has outshadowed the Celtics’ Eastern Conference domination, and while Thomas is good, he has been relegated to a secondary tier of MVP candidates along with the likes of John Wall and Kevin Durant.
The truth is, while Thomas has played great since his peak in February, it hasn’t been enough to capture the attention of voters enough to pull away from the gargantuan forces of Westbrook, LeBron, Kawhi and Harden. Most of his MVP attention came after a stretch where he scored 37, 41, 44 and 38 points. It would take another extended stretch like this for Thomas to get serious MVP consideration, whether fair or not. He’s second in the league in scoring and he’s leading the Celtics to their best finish in years, but that simply isn’t enough when you’re going against a guy who is nearly averaging a triple double for the season in Russell Westbrook.
So while Allen’s claim that the Celtics wouldn’t be much without Thomas may be true, it’s going to take a whole lot more than that to win votes.
The final push for Thomas, however, may have to wait several days. He is currently dealing with a bone bruise in his right knee and might miss the weekend’s games.
Allen also said in his interview that he believes the Celtics will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. So far, this is shaping up to be a thrilling finish, and you can expect Thomas to do everything he can to ensure the Celtics can make that claim a reality.