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Isaiah Thomas takes his game to Boston after never getting a chance here in Phoenix

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone was surprised when Isaiah Thomas entered free agency last summer looking for a starting job but ended up taking a contract with the Phoenix Suns to play backup instead.

The Suns insist they told him they wanted to re-sign Bledsoe and keep Dragic long term. Thomas does not dispute that, but has said he still expected to play 30+ minutes and finish games.

Yet he was decidedly less energetic about his role on Media Day than he had been just after signing. That put a bad taste in fans' mouths, who from then on alternated between disliking him for his ball-pounding ways to disliking him for taking touches away from fan favorite Goran Dragic.

The Suns were playing the mad scientist as they continued the asset-collection game during a rebuild. They convinced themselves that a three-headed-monster could work, and in the end it did work - at least on the court. The Suns went on a tear in December/January that justified all the angst.

The good folks at Nylon Calculus did a great feature on the Suns three-headed monster to prove it really was effective when played (only 7% of the time) and that the two-point system is a clear winner in Phoenix.

suns-nylon-calculus

But the players never bought into it, which made failure a self-fulfilling prophecy. As we know, Thomas never liked his reserve role from day one, which put everyone on edge all season long.

Now Thomas is in Boston, thanks to close ties with Danny Ainge who is also in the asset-collection business. He is excited to go to a team he had lead from day one.

"If you've got a basketball and a hoop, I'll fit in," he said of joining the team. "I'm just happy to be somewhere they can appreciate me and hopefully I can make the city fall in love with me."

That sounds familiar to last summer's intro press conference where Thomas said he just wanted to be wanted. But what he really meant was that he just wanted to be wanted... as long as he can start, and get all the minutes he wants, as well.

From day one of training camp and all the way through the season, Thomas made it known he wanted to start. Wanted more minutes. Wanted to finish games.

Finally, the Suns had enough. Lost in the DragonGate shuffle was the move of Thomas to another team - something that had been brewing for a long while.


"I think this year," GM Ryan McDonough said to Bright Side's Bryan Gibberman last Friday. "Certain players are more concerned about their contractual status or what was best for them, rather than what was best for the team. To be honest with you, that led to a lot of the moves we made yesterday."

He wasn't just talking about Goran Dragic, you know. He was also talking about Isaiah Thomas as well. When two of your three point guards are frustrated with touches and playing time all season, it makes for a real grind.

"We tried to clear out the guys who were more concerned with what they did individually," he continued. "Or we felt were more concerned with what they did individually than with team success. I feel like we accomplished this."

Now Thomas has a team to run. And Dragic has a team to run. And Bledsoe has a team to run.

Tonight, Thomas returns to Phoenix to face his former team. Will he have extra motivation to prove anything to the Suns? Or will it just be awkward?

"Just a little bit," he said of it being awkward to play the Suns on Monday night. "But I was only there for a little while so it won't be that awkward. It's gonna be different going against the guys I just practiced with (a few) days ago. I'm excited and hopefully we can get a win."

Here's his first interview after joining the Celtics.