November 30, 2007 Friday
BOSTON - With all due respect, Isiah Thomas makes sure to say, he hates the Celtics.
"I have a great respect for Boston, a very healthy respect," the Knicks' president-coach said Thursday before his team's first regular-season meeting against the retooled Gang Green.
"But I don't like 'em. I don't like the Celtics. But it's out of respect because they were always good. And they're good again.
"So my hatred is that much more."
That hatred dates back to the pitched battles he and the Pistons played against the Celtics, including five playoff series. Detroit won the last three after Boston won the first two, including a seven-game Eastern Conference finals in 1987 the year before the Pistons took the Celtics out in the same round in six games.
The Celtics then played in the old Boston Garden, where the fans weren't exactly enamored with Thomas. Thus, to this day, he says that unlike other road cities, he never goes out to eat or even walks around Boston, for fear of a negative reaction.
"We won our share of games here in the (old) Garden," said Thomas, whose team played Thursday in the "new" TD Banknorth Garden. "We had some good battles here and I had some great games in the Garden. The fans are great here. They get on you. I like the pressure that comes with playing in the Boston Garden."
Thus, he insisted, he looked forward to Thursday's game, not so much as a statement game, but as a measuring stick of the progress his team has made since its 2-9 start and eight-game losing streak.
Although he won't admit it, he would've done practically anything to bring Kevin Garnett to New York, but didn't have what Danny Ainge had to bring him to Boston - including a relationship with Minnesota general manager Kevin McHale, like Ainge a former Celtic.
Thomas even suggested a conspiracy of sorts Thursday, saying that McHale "knew exactly what he was doing when he made the trade becauseGarnett's a Celtic and he's been trained by a Celtic and he fits here."