Isaiah Thomas‘ career has had plenty of ups and downs, from the 60th pick of the 2011 draft to his newest contract with the Denver Nuggets. The peak of his powers came during his time with the Boston Celtics. However, the Thomas story has been one of the saddest in the NBA since his time with the Boston Celtics came to an end.
The NBA is a Cruel Business; Just Ask Isaiah Thomas
Where it began
In his first four NBA seasons with the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings, Thomas only managed to score more than 20 points per game once. During the 2014-15 season, Thomas had 15.2 PPG and had 3.7 APG. But after being traded to the Celtics, those numbers spiked to 19 PPG and 5.4 APG in the 21 games he played for them.
Thomas built off of a successful end of the season and was the Celtics starting point guard for 79 games. His success in Boston didn’t go unnoticed and he was named an All-Star for the first time in his career.
Thomas and the Celtics were the talk of the league following the 2016-17 season. His 28.9 PPG and 5.9 APG helped the Celtics claim the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
In the playoffs the Celtics faced adversity early against the Chicago Bulls, dropping the first two game of the series at home. But that adversity was nothing in comparison to what Thomas had to go through. After the tragic death of his sister, Thomas suited up for the Celtics just one day later. He led the Celtics to an emotional playoff series comeback.
Later in the postseason, Thomas took a shot to the face and needed dental surgery in order to keep playing.
It was clear Thomas wasn’t going down without a fight, giving his heart and soul to the Celtics during the playoff run. He became a beloved Celtic in the process. However, the run fell short once they came across the LeBron James–led Cleveland Cavaliers.
During that Cavs series, Thomas was finally forced out due to a hip injury. That hip injury would change the path of his career.
Something Had to Change
Something was obvious. Although the Celtics were the number one seed and Thomas was a fearless leader, the Celtics weren’t a good enough team to knock off the Cavs. And with Thomas going into a contract year at the age of 28, he was looking to cash in on his success and wanted the Celtics to “bring the Brinks truck out.” Thomas saw himself as a max player, something the Celtics didn’t agree with.
So although Thomas had played for the Celtics the day after his sister died and was the best story in the entire sport, the Celtics showed just how cruel of a business the NBA is and traded him.
The 2017-2018 season was riddled with disappointment for Thomas. His hip injury was more serious than it was thought to be. He didn’t make his season debut until January 2, 2018.
As many suspected, Thomas and James didn’t work well and the Cavs had no other option than to ship him off at the trade deadline. His season was inevitably cut short on March 28 as he underwent hip surgery.
What’s happening now
All of this had led to Thursday when Thomas signed a deal for the veteran’s minimum.
If Thomas would’ve been able to avoid injuries, he could have cashed in this off-season on a multi-year deal upwards of $80 million. Instead, a player who scored 28.9 PPG game just two seasons ago is now on the verge of finding himself out of the NBA if he has a poor 2018-19 season.
The Thomas story could’ve been an inspiring one, one to tell kids about when they think they’re too small or get discouraged about not being a top recruit. Instead, it is one about how cruel and punishing the NBA business can be.
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 14: Isaiah Thomas onstage at The 22nd Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on May 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for The Webby Awards)