LeBron James and Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas meet after game five of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at the TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

LeBron James embraces ‘tough and determined’ Isaiah Thomas after Game 5: ‘I was happy to see him’

Mike Petraglia
May 26, 2017 - 2:24 am

In the moments after becoming the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer in a Game 5 rout of the Celtics and heading to the NBA Finals for a seventh straight year, LeBron James began his press conference Thursday night talking about his friend, Isaiah Thomas.

The superstar came up to Thomas after the game on the court and gave him an embrace. After the game, he explained why.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen him since he didn’t return for the second half in Game 2,” James said of Thomas’ season-ending hip injury. “Throughout the series we didn’t get an opportunity to actually have that moment. I know I said a few things in the media about the situation he was going through, but I was happy to see him. Just give him a big hug from myself and my family.

“Just how tough and determined the guy is, and to be able to go through the situation he was going through on a day-to-day basis, still being focused and maintaining his focus for the team — family is everything, and basketball comes second after family, and to see him perform the way he was performing throughout the playoffs under the circumstances was a treat to watch. A lot more words were said, but that’s the gist of it.”

“They were playing basketball at such a high level,” Kyrie Irving added. “And honestly, we didn’t want IT to go down. But the way that guy has played, I mean, the way he was playing, he’s deserving of all the credit that he’s gotten.”

James and Irving were clearly impressed by how Thomas dealt with the death of his sister, Chyna, on the eve of the playoffs on April 15. Then, in Game 1 of the second round against Washington, he broke three front teeth in his mouth before seeing his season end with a hip injury sustained in Game 6 against the Wizards.

James was asked, given how far the Celtics made it this season and that they also own the No. 1 pick, if he thinks it’s likely he’ll see them again next season deep in the playoffs.

“I don’t know. That’s a question that none of us can answer in here. They have a great team right now,” James said. “IT is going to come back healthy. They have the No. 1 pick; we’ll see what they do with that. But I can’t answer that question and know if we’re going to play them in the Eastern Conference finals next year. I have no idea.”