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Thomas has new fans, including one notable Lakers supporter

Isaiah Thomas provided instant offense in his Boston debut. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES -- The answer to the question is obvious, especially if you know how Isaiah Thomas ended up with his NBA-themed name. But just to confirm: Thomas was asked Sunday if his father is a Los Angeles Lakers fan.

"Die-hard," Thomas replied.

That might be an understatement. As the story goes, Thomas' father, James, an Inglewood, California, native who bleeds purple and gold, bet a friend that if the Detroit Pistons beat the two-time defending champion Lakers in the 1989 NBA Finals, he'd name his son after Detroit's star point guard, Isiah Thomas.

In June 1989, the Pistons swept the Lakers in four games. Thomas' dad, however, had paid out the bet four months earlier, after the family warmed to the name, with mother Tina simply lobbying for the biblical spelling.

Thomas was raised a Lakers fan in Tacoma, Washington, and when word started spreading Thursday afternoon that he'd been traded to the Boston Celtics, his phone immediately started buzzing. That buzz included a call from his father, who would have been uneasy about his son playing for the rival Celtics, right?

"He just bought a Boston hat. He likes anywhere I’m at," Thomas said. "He’s always going to be a Lakers fan -- he’s from [Inglewood]. Now, he said he’s a Boston fan. Everybody in my family is going to get the green now."

Although Celtics fans were by no means supporters of the Pistons' Bad Boy era, Thomas won't catch too much flack in Boston for his familiar name -- not when the elder Thomas is best remembered for the pass Larry Bird picked off in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals.

And if anyone is holding a grudge, watching Thomas play ought to win him or her over.

Thomas scored 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting with five rebounds, three assists and two steals over 25 minutes in his Boston debut Sunday against -- who else? -- the Lakers. Thomas' night ended early, however, when he was ejected with 5:03 remaining in regulation after getting hit with two technical fouls.

The Celtics fell 118-111 in overtime at Staples Center.

Thomas' ejection might further endear him to Boston fans. He showed some fire and passion after being whistled for a very questionable offensive foul in a four-point game. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Thomas apologized to the team in the locker room, and teammates rallied in support by suggesting he didn't deserve to be tossed for the outburst.

The ejection added to a wild week for Thomas, one that started with his surprise departure from Phoenix. Just days ago, Thomas was on the Suns' bus preparing to catch a flight to Minnesota. He said goodbye to Goran Dragic, who had been traded to Miami, and when the clock struck 1 p.m. MT, the rest of the players on the bus thought they could exhale.

"Then Brandan Wright was like, ‘IT, you just got traded!’ I was like, ‘You lying!’" Thomas said of the exchange with a player who spent less than a month on Boston's roster before being traded to Phoenix in January. "But [Suns employees] came and told me on the bus, and I just walked off. My mom called me. I was like, ‘I don’t even know what’s going on.’ I’m just happy to be somewhere that they appreciate me, and hopefully I can make the city fall in love for me."

Thomas trekked to Boston on Friday, watched the Celtics-Kings game on TV with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, then had his physical Saturday before flying back to join the team in Los Angeles. By Sunday morning, he was on the court for shootaround and preparing for his Boston debut.

After that debut, the Celtics' pro shop would be wise to put in an express order on No. 4 jerseys with Thomas' name on them. If Thomas brings the sort of passion and potential he showed Sunday, he'll endear himself quickly to his new home.

"Hopefully, I can be here for a while and make things happen," he said.

Ainge has long coveted Thomas, who noted Boston's boss watched him at the Maui Invitational before the draft and suggested he was just as good as Kemba Walker.

Thomas, the final pick in the 2011 draft, signed a four-year, $27 million contract with Phoenix this summer, but he was shipped out after just 46 games in the Suns' backcourt overhaul. Ainge has long expressed an appreciation for Thomas' talents, including making him the first call at the start of free agency in July, and he finally got his man on deadline day.

Thomas joined fellow Tacoma, Washington, native Avery Bradley on the Celtics' roster. The two were AAU teammates in junior high and kept in touch, despite divergent paths since then. Thomas said Bradley's presence is similar to that of a brother's, while Bradley admits he looked up to Smart as "the best basketball player in the area" growing up.

Even though some snow banks in Boston are bigger than he is, Thomas said he is ready for the New England weather. He prepped at South Kent School in Connecticut before attending the University of Washington.

For now, with the team on the road, Thomas is trying to learn his new playbook and familiarize himself with his new teammates. Stevens said he has only had a handful of interactions in person with Thomas since his arrival, including a quick high-five on the team bus and some brief chats Sunday.

Cracked Stevens: "I just say, ‘Hi, my name is Brad Stevens. I’m one of the coaches, and if you have any questions, here’s my cell phone number.'"

The Celtics wrap up a three-game road trip Monday night in Phoenix, which sends Thomas back to his former employer just four days after the trade. It's just another part of this week's crazy journey.

"I got traded, and my first game was supposed to be in Sacramento, so that would have been weird," Thomas said. "It’s been a whirlwind for me. Everything is coming so fast, but I’m excited."