Isaiah Thomas has played three games this year, all three accumulating in losses. StatMuse made a post about it, and it caused a passionate reaction from one of Isaiah’s oldest teammates. But in all seriousness - feelings aside - is IT’s role in those losses fair or bulls**t? Because LeBron seems to have an answer.
Mr. Fourth Quarter went from 19 points to 13 points to 3, all in the space of three games. Kind of like how he went from 29 points to 15 points to 8 within three seasons. Fans cried for Isaiah to have one more chance without realizing he had plenty. This is his second Lakers run and his second LeBron run. He played in a Washington jersey and, less memorable than that, a Pelicans jersey. But what separates those junk change versions of Isaiah to now? LeBron may have the answer.
“I’m happy to see him back in the league. The difference between when we were teammates in Cleveland and now is that he’s healthy. He wasn’t healthy in Cleveland and he was playing outta pure grit. His hip was just not allowing him to be who he was before the injury. Obviously, he has his pop back, he has his shot back, and it’s good to have him”
LeBron James, postgame press conference
It’s been too small of a sample size to determine how much the injuries have moved him back. Although you can unequivocally contend they have. The bigger point LeGM missed considering is that the Lakers currently have a horrible blueprint for him to succeed. And like with everything about IT’s career, it’s just because of his size.
The formula for achieving success around small guys has always been the same. Stack the rest of the court with defensive first players to make up for the inevitable drive-bys and lost rebounds. The only team to really make it work was Isiah Thomas’ Bad Boy Pistons. But the real Isiah, a.k.a. Zeke, was 6’1” instead of 5’9” and was an excellent pickpocketer.
There’s a reason Damon Stoudamire’s troubled ’00 Blazers, Allen Iverson’s famous ’01 76ers, Mike Connely’s hardnosed ’15 Grizzlies, and yes, even Isaiah Thomas’ ’18 Celtics were all top 5 in opponents points per game and defensive ranking. Their coaches flooded the team with unmoveable bigs, switchable wings, and always one defensive specialist. In fact, every one of those teams mentioned had a player win Defensive Player Of The Year or receive at least one first-place vote. If you have a small point guard that can carry the offense, surround him with defensive monsters to cover up for him on defense.
Despite having Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers sit 27th in opponents' points per game. Not exactly a prime environment for Mr. Fourth Quarter to be playing in any fourth quarters.
IT has such a great underdog story that if it was proposed to the NBA 2K creators, they would reject it for being too far-fetched. The last pick in the draft moves to three teams in four years because his value succeeds expectation every time. Even when he found a home in Boston, he was originally relegated to the bench for Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley.
Thomas had to prove every one of everything wasn’tstep of the way, never being given the benefit of the doubt until he was severely injured from playing through injury. Which wasn’t even the worst thing he played through in a Boston jersey. Now with injuries and style deficiencies working against him, it seems this might be the final chapter for the greatest underdog in NBA history.