The heartstrings of basketball fans worldwide were tugged yesterday when a video of Isaiah Thomas crying after dropping 81 points in a pro-am game surfaced via Slow Grind Media and Bleacher Report on Instagram. The footage showed Thomas, most known for his time with the Boston Celtics, lamenting that NBA teams have given up on him while visibly distraught and in tears.
“They gave up on me. These (expletive) gave up on me!”Isaiah Thomas, Slow Grind Media
I.T. was an NBA superstar and one of the best point guards in the game not too long ago. In the 2016-17 season, Thomas finished fifth in MVP voting between LeBron James (4th) and Stephen Curry (6th). That should remind fans exactly how good I.T was when he was healthy, as there were very few players who played with the same kind of heart and determination every night. Thomas was so dedicated to his team and basketball that he suited up for a Celtics home game moments after finding out that his sister had died in a car crash – he scored 33 points in 38 minutes despite the tragic news he had just received.
Thomas was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kyrie Irving later that offseason and had the chance to play with LeBron James. Unfortunately, fate would decide that hip issues would seriously hamper Isaiah, leading to his decline and eventual release from the NBA. Today, Thomas claims he is healthy and ready to get back in the league, but NBA front offices don’t seem to share the same sentiment as the 5-foot-9 guard continues to await the call. ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins, another former Celtic, thinks that it’s ridiculous that I.T is still not with any NBA team.
The problem I have with some of the NBA front offices is that they overthink things to much!!! @isaiahthomas is a damn Bucket!!! Remember @carmeloanthony made a lot of people look crazy when he got back into the NBA…it will be the same with IT!!!! Carry the hell on…— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) August 11, 2021
Kendrick Perkins is equal parts correct and mistaken in his assertion here, which possibly provides an answer as to why Thomas is still out of the league at this juncture. I.T is one of the best offensive point guards ever, when healthy. With today’s rules, Thomas can get into the lane and has the strength to take contact on the finish or pull it back for a three. He is a complete offensive player that is not afraid to mix it up with the best of them.
However, the last time we saw him playing well was four years ago, at twenty-eight. Thomas will be turning 33 this coming season, and while his offensive skills may never leave him, he will only become a greater defensive liability with age. During his MVP years, I.T was always a target for opposing teams on defense due to his size. Back then, he had the athleticism to beat guys to a spot to try and disrupt their moves, but now, it seems like age will make that nearly impossible to do. Thomas might be a walking bucket for a team this year, but he also might be an automatic bucket for the opponent due to his suspect defense. I believe that Thomas’ defensive struggles serve as the biggest hindrance to teams signing him versus his offensive ability.
Since the footage was published, there have been reports on social regarding the Lakers consideration of Thomas for one of their remaining roster spots. The Lakers already have the oldest roster in the league; however, adding Thomas does not help address potential minutes concerns for the Laker veterans during the regular season. In terms of fit, though, the Purple and Gold might be the only place that can make the acquisition of I.T work to their advantage because they have three of the most athletic defenders in the world in Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. Not only are the three great at covering ground on defense, but they are cerebral players coached by one of the best defensive minds in the game today in Frank Vogel. If one team can afford to hide Thomas on defense, it’s a team with AD.
The Lakers have seen some impressive performances from rookie Mac Maclung, and he will likely get a spot beyond training camp as LA looks to add some youth to the roster. Jared Dudley will probably be back on a minimum deal as well, given what he brings to the team off the court. It looks like Thomas signing with the Lakers is a pipe dream, but the Lakers also like to control their narrative more than any other franchise in the NBA. With narrative as a part of the consideration, how can you root against a team that has Russ, Melo, and I.T resurrecting their careers in search of their first championship? It may cost them a young player, but if I’m the Lakers, I’m picking up the phone right now and making myself the darling of the NBA for the 2021-2022 season.