No NBA team decided to give Isaiah Thomas a chance this past offseason. Perhaps his play in Puerto Rico last weekend will change someone’s mind.
AmeriCup qualifying games aren’t exactly the highest level of competition, but the two Team USA played this past weekend were important for Thomas, as they were the first two games he's played since undergoing surgery in May on the injured hip that had derailed his career over the last four years.
And the former Celtics point guard looked good. In a pair of wins over The Bahamas and Mexico, Thomas led the team with 14 points per game, including knocking down six of his 12 three-point attempts.
“I'm moving like I did before the injury, and that was the biggest thing I wanted to show people -- that I didn't lose a step,” Thomas told Sports Illustrated for a recent cover story. “I'm still quick and fast. I'm still powerful. I’m able to move again.”
Thomas was at the peak of his career when he first injured his hip in March 2017, in the midst of a second straight All-Star season with the Celtics, one in which he was third in the NBA in scoring with 28.9 points per game and wound up finishing fifth in MVP voting.
He re-aggravated the injury in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals and was forced to miss the remainder of the series, which the Celtics lost to the Cavaliers in five games. From there, things would never be the same.
The Celtics traded Thomas to Cleveland that offseason in the deal that landed them Kyrie Irving, but he wound up playing just 15 games for the Cavs while battling the nagging injury before they then flipped him to the Lakers.
The 2018-19 season wound up being pretty much a lost season, as Thomas played just 12 games after signing a one-year deal with the Nuggets. He saw more action with the Wizards last season, but then got traded to the Clippers and released just two days after the trade.
That combined with the season being suspended by the coronavirus pandemic led Thomas to finally get the extensive surgery he now admits he should’ve gotten years ago, after that 2016-17 season.
Thomas’ surgeon told SI that his right hip was in such a bad spot pre-surgery that most people would have trouble walking on it, but that it is now “mechanically, where he was pre-injury” and just as strong as his left side.
Now healthier than he’s been in years, and coming off a couple good performances for Team USA, the now-32-year-old Thomas is hoping to get another chance with an NBA team, even if it’s just on a 10-day deal to start. Of note, Thomas said Celtics coach Brad Stevens was among those who sent him supportive texts after the weekend, although that obviously doesn’t necessarily mean anything’s brewing with Boston.
“I've been the last pick. I've seen the bottom,” Thomas told SI. “I’ve seen the top -- being an MVP [contender], an All-Star. And I’m back on the bottom now. I just need my foot in the door. Like I said when I got drafted: All I need is a chance. I'll do the rest.”