Nothing but love for IT from former Celtics teammates

Al Horford of the Celtics says he and the rest of Isaiah Thomas' former teammates are happy he's returned to the court, though he won't play in his first trip back to Boston.

Though he’s coming to town tonight as an opponent, and though he won’t be playing tonight at TD Garden, Isaiah Thomas’ former teammates are looking forward to seeing him and are universally happy he is healthy and back to playing.

Thomas, a two-time All-Star point guard with Boston before he was traded as part of the blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving last August, is obviously still well-liked, admired and respected by his former organization. He made his debut as a Cavalier on Tuesday night against Portland with 17 points and three assists in 19 minutes, but will not play tonight.

Boston had planned to pay tribute to Thomas for his time spent as a Celtic tonight, but at Thomas’ request, that will be put on hold. Thomas wants to be able to play if and when such homage is paid. The Cavaliers and Celtics will play one more time this season, Feb. 11 in Boston. However, that night, the Celtics plan to retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34, so that could be one busy night.

For now, though, Thomas’ former teammates are genuinely happy he has returned to the court and will be returning to Boston tonight.

“I just want him to be healthy,” Jaylen Brown told reporters after practice Tuesday. “I talk to Isaiah all the time. Isaiah’s like family to me. He was one of the people who reached out to me when my friend passed, and him just doing that helped me a lot. So talking to Isaiah beyond basketball, it’s going to be fun.

“When he gets healthy I’m sure he’s going to do everything he does. But when he comes to play the Celtics, he has to get locked up.”

Boston big man Al Horford expressed similar thoughts on IT after practice Tuesday.

“All positive memories. Isaiah was such a competitor. I have a lot of respect for him,” he said. “Just the way he went about his work, and his ability to tune anything going on off the court with him or physically out and give 100 percent every night.

“You appreciate that from your teammates, and that’s something I was able to appreciate from Isaiah.”

His former coach, Brad Stevens, was effusive in his praise for Thomas, too.

“I can’t say enough positive, glowing things about Isaiah,” he said. “He’s a special guy, and it’s great to see him back out on the court tonight. Certainly, he’s as tough as they come.”

Lost in all the emotion of Thomas making his return to Boston tonight has been Jae Crowder, sent to Cleveland in the deal for Irving along with Ante Zizic and two draft choices, will also be making his first appearance in TD Garden since the huge trade was made.

“Yeah just a guy, a hard worker,” Horford said. “He played hard, a competitor, really also gave everything he had for the Celtics.”

Stevens said much the same of Crowder.

“Also great toughness, played a variety of positions,” he said. “When we really needed versatile guys to do a lot of things on both ends of the floor, he was probably the guy that was able to swing to a big position the most and play a wing.

“He brought a consistent approach and toughness to our team.”