Can Isaiah Thomas pull off a Tiny Archibald-like comeback this season?
Isaiah Thomas has a lot of fans - and many nay-sayers. "He's washed up." "Too old." "Too small." "Career is done." That is what we are hearing. Well, that is what many Celtics fans said when Nate "Tiny" Archibald came to the Celtics in 1978 at the age of 30 after suffering a torn Achilles. He proved them wrong.
His first season in Boston was not great, but his next three were. He orchestrated a Celtics team that won a Championship in 1981. Nate averaged 13.8 PPG and 7.7 APG that year. Archibald had initially been drafted in the second round of the 1970 draft by the Cincinnati Royals led by former Celtic legend, Bob Cousy (per MassLive's Thomas King):
Cousy saw a lot of himself in Archibald.
Both grew up in the projects of New York City. Both were diminutive, ball-handlers with a flair for the dramatic and a bull-like determination. Cousy instantly gave Archibald control of the offense, and Tiny thrived.
"I always tell people, Cooz is like my step dad," Archibald said. "He gave me a chance to play. In the game of basketball, you need chances."
When Red Auerbach traded for Tiny, many fans and writers expected little from the small, aging Archibald. Nate was having none of that negative banter (per MassLive's Thomas King):
Years later, another New Yorker –Red Auerbach – would give Archibald the chance of a lifetime. Archibald had suffered through two injury riddled seasons, been traded in back-to-back seasons and was playing for the Buffalo Braves. He had missed the entire 1978 season with a torn ACL when Red Auerbach made a trade to acquire Archibald.
"My career was almost over," Archibald said. "Red (Auerbach) took me in his office and he said, 'All I need out of you is leadership. Everybody else gave up on you'."
Archibald provided more than leadership, helping the Boston Celtics to the best record in the NBA for three straight seasons and a championship in 1981.
Isaiah Thomas is confident that he can still produce if given the "same opportunity" he had with the #Celtics.— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) June 9, 2019
Maybe that opportunity will exist with the C's 🤔https://t.co/rKsDruByPZ pic.twitter.com/nRL4xF3VeD
Now comes diminutive, aging Isaiah Thomas following hip surgery and being bounced from team to team via trades and free agency. Unlike Nate, Isaiah would not be coming to the Celtics as a lead point guard - not in Brad Stevens system. But much like Tiny, he needs a chance.
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Photo via Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images