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Boston Celtics’ Brad Stevens appreciated Isaiah Thomas’ love of basketball: ‘I don’t know anyone who loves it more’

DENVER — Denver Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas isn’t talking to the media while he rehabs from an injured hip, but he gave some thoughts about his time in Boston on Twitter prior to the Boston Celtics’ matchup with the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

First, Thomas praised Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

Then he shouted out his time in Boston, where he was a folk hero for Celtics fans.

Stevens was asked pre-game what he appreciated about Thomas as a person.

“I’m naturally drawn to people who love basketball, and I don’t know anyone who loves it more,” Stevens said. “That’s all real, and he works really hard at it. Even when he had a down day or a good day, he would always be back at work. We’re rooting for him. When he gets back on that court at the right time, which I know is important, we’ll all be rooting from afar.”

Nuggets coach Mike Malone coached Isaiah Thomas in Sacramento, and his presence in Denver was one of the reasons Thomas joined the team.

“Even while he’s not playing, he’s still had a profound impact on our your players,” Malone said. “His voice, his leadership in huddles during games and practices and in the locker room. We have a relatively quiet group and I think one thing everybody knows from being around Isaiah is that he’s not quiet, and that’s a good thing for our team. He brings that energy and a voice and a leadership we sorely miss.”

Thomas is expected to return to the court in December, although the Nuggets have not put a timetable on his return.

Other pre-game notes:

– Mike Malone believes the Celtics offense will come around.

“I wouldn’t worry about the Celtics’ offense,” Malone said, smiling.

– The Celtics are expected to have their entire starting lineup in place, including Jaylen Brown who has been dealing with foot issues. Nuggets star Paul Millsap is a game-time decision.

– Stevens was asked once again what the team can do to improve its percentages around the hoop.

“There’s things we can do that will be better, like better cutting, just a little bit more alert to being quicker with our drives, quick screens, making a point of getting the ball quickly to the ground and to the rim, and then making a read from there,” Stevens said. “We get there then it’s about spraying it and making the right pass. We’re just not getting there quickly.”

– Overheard in the Nuggets locker room:

The Celtics and Nuggets tip off at 9 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Boston.

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