We recently talked about him in the office. "Hey, what happened to Isaiah Thomas?" A few years ago, he was the most electrifying player in the NBA - The King in the Fourth. Now he is nowhere to be found. But that may not be the end of his story; Isaiah Thomas is ready to make his return.
Five months ago, staring at the end of his career, Thomas decided to have hip surgery. Ever since he got traded from the Celtics, Thomas has played with a bad hip, trying to manage it with physical therapy. For Thomas, COVID-19 had a silver lining - it gave him time to do what needed to get done a long time ago.
“It's like night and day for me. There's no more pain. I've got my full range of motion. For three years, I was trying to play the best players in the world on one leg. I needed help from my kids to put my socks on in the morning.”
Isaiah Thomas, ESPN
Thomas has scientific data and video showing him doing full squats while working out, making full cuts, and moving as he once did on the court. This is the first time he's been able to move without pain since the '16/'17 season.
His issues started in Boston with hip impingement - that's medical terminology for his hip being bone-on-bone (abnormal and wearing contact between the ball and socket of the hip joint.) His labrum - the cartilage between the two bones - was torn. Waiting to get it fixed means you do more damage to the bone itself, and Thomas reached the point where hip resurfacing surgery was the only possible choice. Basically, it's hip replacement surgery.
Why did it take so long to pull the trigger on the surgery? Hip replacement is a train you can't get off. Thomas will need to get hip surgery every 10-15 years now, for the rest of his life. That's why it's the last thing on the list. As this surgery is usually done for much older people, cutting and rebounding isn't a priority when designing artificial hips. Thomas got a state-of-the-art hip replacement that should enable him to do just that.
Isaiah's hip issues started in the '16/'17 Playoffs with the Celtics. That was the season of his life. Thomas averaged 28.9/2.7/5.9 in the regular season and led the Celtics to the no.1 in the East. Then two horrible things happened. Thomas's sister, Chyna, tragically passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident. After a lot of soul searching, IT decided to come back and play in the Playoffs. And the Celtics needed him.
Not only did Thomas play through heartbreak, but also an extremely painful hip. Playing through all that, Thomas led the Celts against the Bulls in the 1st round, and Wizards in the 2nd round - when he dropped 53 in 44 minutes. At the time, everyone was expecting Thomas to get a huge contract extension.
He aggravated his hip injury, got traded to Cleveland, and the rest is history. Possibly trying to avoid surgery, and chasing that contract extension, Thomas signed with the Lakers, Nuggets, and Wizards. We hope he is truly back to 100%, and if that's the case giving him a chance should be a no-brainer for a lot of NBA teams.
Thomas understands he's not going to be a starter and has said he is chasing a bench role. That's the most important thing about a 6th or 7th man - embracing the role. Isaiah Thomas can be that spark plug for a lot of second units in the NBA.