Eighteen months ago, Isaiah Thomas was on top of the world. At the time, he played for the Boston Celtics and was racking up impressive statistics night after night. At the TD Garden, he scored a franchise-record 53-points, in a playoff game nonetheless. His fourth-quarter scoring dominated game after game throughout the season and even into the Playoffs. His name became linked to high caliber play in the NBA. With all the accolades and contributions he made to the Celtics, he believed he was on his way to an $150 million contract. Fast forward to present day to the July free agency. Only one team offered Thomas a guaranteed contract for one-year at $2 million, the veteran’s minimum deal. Despite that fact, he accepted that contract and signed with the Denver Nuggets.
While most consider this summer for Thomas to be a complete disaster, he merely considers it a disappointment. In his mind, one contract offer with such a low salary is flat-out “disrespectful”. In many ways, his success with the Celtics meant he deserved a pay bump and recognition; however, he failed to get much of that recognition. Instead, Thomas was traded away from the Celtics to the Cavaliers. In Cleveland, he suffered a devastating hip injury which put him out for a large portion of the season. Thomas blames the lack of contracts on his hip injury in the 2018 season. As the injury kept him out of practice and gameplay for the last seven months of 2017, he lost his hot form from the Celtics. As the new year ruled around, Thomas pushed to get back into form and made it back on the court for the Cavaliers in early January 2018. Today, he claims that was one of his biggest mistakes, stating that seven months wasn’t long enough: “That was too soon, a mistake,” he says. “I should’ve waited until after the All-Star break.” Soon thereafter, he was traded to the Lakers and ended his season in late February with an arthroscopic surgical procedure.
To Thomas, his hip changed everything. From 29 points a game as the starting point guard for the Celtics, he fell to barely getting a backup point guard job with a minimum contract. Thomas understands how injuries can affect player contracts and roles, but he doesn’t accept the “fall from grace”. He feels that so many others before him have suffered big injuries and get chance after chance to prove themselves again; however, he didn’t get that chance. Instead, he just feels personally burned by both Boston and Cleveland.
Despite all that has happened, Thomas vows to come back stronger than ever. Thomas is thrilled to play under the likes of Michael Malone in Denver. This past season, Denver finished in ninth place in the Western Conference, just narrowly missing the playoffs. Thomas hopes to be a part of the change that pushes them into the Playoffs and he believes “They need me, and I need them.” More than that, Thomas admits “My hip is not normal. I understand that. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t play at a high level. That’s what I have to fight and show people again. And I’m willing to do that. I am willing.”