Thomas reached out to Ainge about signing with Celtics

Isaiah Thomas signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets in July.

Isaiah Thomas reached out to Danny Ainge about signing with the Boston Celtics before he reached his agreement with the Denver Nuggets, Thomas told ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski.

Thomas and Ainge talked for about 15 minutes on the phone. Ainge was open to the idea, but the Celtics needed to work through Marcus Smart‘s restricted-free-agency discussions before they could consider making an offer to Thomas.

Thomas accepted the Nuggets’ offer before Boston had reached its new deal with Smart.

“If the opportunity is there, I would just like to let you know that I’d love to come back,” Thomas told Ainge. “S—, I’d have gone back. I don’t hold grudges.”

Thomas signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Nuggets. With the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers this past season, Thomas averaged 15.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists, shooting 37.3 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from three.

Thomas, 29, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right hip on March 28 but says he’s 100 percent now.

“People are scared of my hip now,” Thomas says. “I just had to be real with myself. I had to understand that it’s not going to be about the money this summer. I’ve got to show people that I can play — and play at a high level again. And I will.

“If I didn’t play in the playoffs [with Boston] I’d be OK. I’d be getting paid. I’d be who I am — who I was. But you couldn’t tell me in that moment in time — with everything I was going through — that, OK, I should just sit out. I don’t think Boston went about it the right way as well.

“But at the same time, it was hard for me to sit out. I just lost my sister, one of the closest people in my life. Basketball was the only thing that was going to help me out. I played until I literally couldn’t play anymore. And that was not a good business decision if I was looking in the long term, but I was looking in the ‘right now.’ That’s just what it was.

“They probably would’ve traded me anyway. But I would’ve been in position to show my worth, and last year I was never in position to show my worth.”

Thomas is being reunited with Michael Malone, who coached Thomas with the Sacramento Kings. The two have a very strong relationship and Thomas believes Malone will use him correctly and get the best out of him on the floor.

“Me having a real close relationship with coach Malone was probably the biggest key,” Thomas said. “And knowing that I wanted to go somewhere where they were going to allow me to be who I am, allow me to play to my strengths and at the same time be around a good group of guys that got the potential to be special.

“It’s a fast-paced offense, spread the floor; you’ve got one of the best big men in the NBA that can pass and make plays for others. And it’s all about space and opportunity. I’ve played in Mike Malone systems so I know what he wants from his players and I know what he expects. It was just a perfect fit from all angles and I’m just excited to be here and excited to help. That’s what I’m here to do.”