It hasn’t even been 24 hours since the Cavaliers and the Celtics agreed to a trade that will send Kyrie Irving to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Žižić, and the Nets’ first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. And yet, some NBA fans are already trying to drive a wedge between Thomas and his new teammate LeBron James.
Shortly after news of the deal broke on Tuesday night, fans unearthed an old tweet that Thomas sent out back in 2010. That tweet featured Thomas comparing LeBron to Kobe Bryant and giving Kobe the nod over LeBron:
And it didn’t end there. As the night went on, fans dug up some other old tweets from Thomas. Like the first one, they also featured Thomas giving Kobe the edge over LeBron. One saw Thomas taking a shot at LeBron for trying to shoot free throws left-handed:
Another saw him suggesting that LeBron didn’t care enough about the game of basketball:
On the surface, these tweets seem like they could potentially be problematic. LeBron just parted ways with a teammate who, by all accounts, wasn’t interested in playing with him anymore for whatever reason. LeBron has also been forced to deal with 101 rumors concerning his relationship with that now-former teammate over the course of the last few weeks. So the idea of the Cavaliers making a trade with the Celtics for Thomas and then having his old tweets be part of one of the very first storylines attached to the trade has to be frustrating.
But outside of some initial awkwardness between LeBron and Thomas because of the tweets, we doubt they’re going to play any sort of real role in their relationship moving forward. For starters, Thomas sent all of the tweets out when he was a 21-year-old kid playing college basketball for Washington. He was still on the outside looking in when it came to the NBA back then and he had a fan’s perspective—a Kobe fan's perspective, at that.
Since joining the NBA in 2011, Thomas's view on LeBron has changed. While he’s probably still Team Kobe deep down, Thomas demonstrated a newfound appreciation for LeBron in 2012 when he sent out this tweet, which was also uncovered on Tuesday night after his anti-LeBron tweets started spreading:
And while LeBron has yet to publicly comment on Thomas’ old tweets, everything that he has said about Thomas in recent months suggests that he has a certain sense of admiration for what Thomas has been able to do during his time in the NBA. Back in December, when someone suggested the Celtics didn’t have a star on their roster, LeBron strongly disputed that claim.
"They got a clear-cut star and that’s Isaiah," he said. "The notion that they don’t have a star I think is fugazi as Donnie Brasco would say. ... They’re a good team for a reason, and it starts with the head of the snake, and that’s Isaiah."
LeBron also gave Thomas all the credit in the world in May after Thomas was knocked out of the Celtics’ playoff series against the Cavaliers with a hip injury. LeBron said he really respected what Thomas was able to do during the postseason prior to his injury, especially while dealing with the unexpected death of his sister.
"Salute to him, unbelievable season what he was able to accomplish this year," LeBron said, "and things he did in the postseason under the circumstances with the tragic death of his sister."
Additionally, the Cavaliers' trade for Thomas helps the Cavaliers in both the short and long term, which has to make LeBron happy. It will keep them right in the thick of things next season, while simultaneously saving them a ton of money. It will also provide them with assets, most notably the Nets' pick, which should allow them to draft a young player who could become the cornerstone of their franchise for years to come. It's exactly what they were hoping to get if they ultimately decided to trade Irving.
With all of that in mind, we don't expect LeBron to be too upset about the old Thomas tweets circulating right now. It might help Thomas’ case if he goes ahead and deletes the tweets, which are curiously still up. He also might want to scale back on how often he communicates with Kobe, as he did during the playoffs last season, given his new situation with LeBron.
But something tells us LeBron and Thomas are going to have more important things than 7-year-old tweets to worry about next season. So don’t expect either of them to spend much time dwelling once the hype surrounding them dies down.