On the Comeback Trail

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Isaiah Thomas Attempts to Resurrect his Career in the Mile-High State

A year ago, Isaiah Thomas was riding high, with plans to cash in on a big season. Coming off a year in which he averaged 28.9 PPG and finished 5th in MVP voting, the then-Celtics point guard made it clear he intended to get paid come free agency.

“I’m a max (contract) guy, so I deserve the max,” Thomas said back then.

“They know they’ve got to bring the Brinks truck out”.

In 2017, such a statement did not seem outlandish, given Thomas’ play back then. However, the big payday never came. Instead, the all-star was abruptly traded to Cleveland. It was all downhill from there.

Recovering from a hip injury that ended his 2017 playoff run, Thomas missed a good chunk of last season, and struggled badly upon returning, failing to mesh with LeBron James.

After 15 rough games with the Cavs, Isaiah was traded to the Lakers. Overall, he averaged 15 PPG in 2017-18, while shooting an ugly 37%, a far cry from his peak just a year prior.

Once in demand, Thomas’ value has declined tremendously. Currently rehabbing from April surgery on the aforementioned hip, he recently had to settle for a one-year, $2 million deal from the Denver Nuggets. Rather than a max contract, it is the veteran minimum.

Thomas’ situation represents a cautionary tale of how fast one’s fortunes can change in today’s NBA. However, the upcoming season presents reasons for optimism for the guard and his fans.

In Denver, Thomas, who claims to be “finally pain free“, will be re-united with Mike Malone, his former coach in Sacramento, where the former Washington Husky first made his mark in the league.

“Me having a real close relationship with coach Malone was probably the biggest key,” said Thomas. ““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.”

In Denver, Thomas will have an opportunity to re-establish himself, while becoming a crucial part of an emerging team with playoff aspirations. If everything goes well, he could be in line for a sizable rise next summer, when the salary cap is expected to go up, giving teams more money to play with. It might not be the Brinks truck, but it won’t be the minimum either.

Isaiah Thomas has always had his doubters. Being 5’9 in a tall man’s sport will do that. Still, as the final pick in the 2011 draft, he is no stranger to proving people wrong. It remains to be seen whether he can overcome the odds one more time. This time, his career might be on the line.

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