Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas pledged to be the team's top primary recruiter this summer with the goal of finding a running mate. He proved it in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
A short time after the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated from the Western Conference finals with a Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Thomas tweeted -- then deleted -- "35" with a shamrock emoji.
Thirty-five is the jersey number of Kevin Durant, who will be the top available free agent this summer. Maybe recognizing his tweet might seem insensitive in the immediate aftermath of a tough loss, Thomas quickly deleted his post. Thomas teared up after Boston's Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in an Eastern Conference first-round series and knows how much playoff losses can sting.
Thomas said last month that he plans to be active in offseason recruiting.
"I'm going to be really active [in recruiting]," Thomas told Sirius XM NBA Radio from the NBA draft lottery in New York earlier this month. "[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] wants me to be active. Whatever he needs me to do, I’m there. All he says is, ‘When I call, answer.’ I’m going to be ready."
Added Thomas: "We’re a step away. We’re a couple pieces away, I think, from being contenders in the Eastern Conference. We won 48 games this year with a team that people didn’t think could do that. That says a lot about the direction we’re going in, and I know Danny and those guys in the front office are going to do whatever they can to make this team the best possible team it can be."
Thomas, who is quickly emerging as the face of these young Celtics, represented the team on stage at the draft lottery and smiled wide when asked if he engaged in any recruiting during that trip to New York.
The Celtics own three first-round picks -- including the No. 3 selection from the Brooklyn Nets -- as part of eight selections in next month's draft. The Celtics, with a young cheap core already in place, can also generate enough cap space to pursue two max-contract free agents this summer.
Although many expect Durant will re-sign with the Thunder -- with a potential opt-out to maximize the value of his contract next summer -- the Celtics would benefit from simply getting a meeting with him when he reaches free agency on July 1. The mere suggestion that an elite star is considering the Celtics would increase the chances of attracting impact talent moving forward.