One of these days – doubters be darned – Isaiah Thomas plans on being a headliner again too. “I’m not no sixth man,” he declared in an interview with USA TODAY Sports this week. “And I won’t be a sixth man (in the future). I just want everybody to know that, like clear as can be. I’m a two-time All-Star and a starter who has done things that a lot of people in this league haven’t done (when) given that opportunity. But I got traded into a situation I can’t control. There’s nothing bad against (Lakers coach) Luke Walton. There’s nothing bad against the Los Angeles Lakers. I’m taking advantage of the opportunity they’ve given me, and then (we’ll) end the season off strong. And that’s all I can do. I’m not coming in here saying, ‘Oh, I want this, or this is going to happen.’ No, that’s not me. I’m just going to come in here and be a professional, and when my name is called I’m going to be more than ready for any opportunity I’m given.”
And Isaiah Thomas, who has learned time and again that he can only control so much, will keep searching for the hoops happiness that has been so tough to come by of late. “At the end of the day, when free agency comes, I'm going to go where I'm wanted, and wanted the most, and wanted to be Isaiah Thomas,” he said. “And I've got to make the best decision for me and my family, and that's all that I'm going to be worried about when that time comes. But for right now, I'm a Laker and I'm here at least until the end of the season and I'm going to do whatever I can to make this team better.”
He’s gone from a star in Boston to being cast aside in Cleveland and now finds himself as a backup with the Los Angeles Lakers, still trying to get healthy after hip surgery. “All you need is one team to love you,” Thomas said. “It’s like the draft all over again. You just need one team.”
Isaiah Thomas isn't sure what free agency holds for him this summer but said Thursday that his "résumé speaks for itself" and that if given the opportunity he can do what he did in Boston again. "All you need is one team to love you," Thomas said after the Los Angeles Lakers' morning shootaround in Miami. "It's like the draft all over again. You just need one team. So that is all I am doing and working toward. Until then, I am focused on doing whatever I can to make this the best team possible. "My resume speaks for itself. What I can do on the basketball floor speaks for itself. I can't do nothing but control what I can control, and that is taking advantage of any opportunity that I am given and playing my heart out. But come July, I got to weigh my options to do what is best for myself and my family."
He added: "I'm coming to an L.A. team that's young, that already has a system. And I just want to help. Hopefully I'm here long term, you know, with me being a free agent this summer. But if I'm not, these last 25 games I'm going to play my heart out and show the Lakers why I should be here long term."
He remains optimistic about his future in Los Angeles. "I've been in this situation before when I got traded to Boston," Thomas said, "a team right outside the playoffs, a team that was young, really didn't know how to win. And I just brought a different swagger to that organization. And we took it and ran with it."
After years of wild spending, only a few teams have much cap room—and none as much as the Lakers. With the No. 1 pick they got from the Cavs (Cleveland’s own pick, not Brooklyn’s), the Lakers might even get someone to take Luol Deng’s $18 million a year, creating two max slots with $12 million left over. With necessary discounts from James’ $35 million and George’s $30 million, Thomas, on an expiring deal, could have a place here, not as a ball-dominating point guard but an explosive sixth man who could be a huge plus in today’s fast-paced, firepower-oriented, floor-spacing game.
The best part for the Lakers is that Thomas could work in any case, helping them recruit more stars, whether they land two, or one, or none. For the first time in a long time, their strategy isn’t hit-or-miss but flexibile. Thomas’ struggles returning from surgery dimmed the memory of his years leading the Celtics back into prominence, making him an icon among icons in their market. Coming off the bench would make Isaiah’s size easier to work around. It’s not something he would have embraced in Boston of Cleveland but he might here, knowing he has to find somewhere he fits in.
Mike Bresnahan: Lakers do not plan on buying out Isaiah Thomas, Walton said. Thomas is expected to play the rest of the season with Lakers before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.
One, the Cavs will be under some pressure to retain him because he's a prime asset from the Kyrie Irving trade. Though the Cavs made it clear behind the scenes that they saw the Nets' pick as the primary carrot, the Nets' stronger-than-expected play this season is threatening to push that pick deeper into the lottery. Currently, it is projected to be the ninth pick. A team, even a rebuilding team as the Cavs might be if James walks, cannot allow prime assets to leave for nothing. Second, Gilbert loves underdogs like Thomas. He sees himself as an underdog, a self-made billionaire who went to Michigan State, not the Ivy League. In 2016, Gilbert was the driving force behind paying $2.4 million to buy a draft pick to take Kay Felder, an undersized point guard from Oakland University who attracted Gilbert because of his ability to overcome challenges. Felder didn't make it with the Cavs, but Thomas is the embodiment of what the Cavs were dreaming of with Felder.
Kristian Winfield: Isaiah Thomas on pressure of contract yr: "No. When it comes to basketball there is no pressure. I work too hard for there to be any."
Adrian Wojnarowski: "It puts Isaiah Thomas in a really difficult place. He's gonna be a free agent at the end of this season and he's looking for the biggest financial score of his career. And both teams dragging him through this is really unfair to his future because he may very well get through and be fully recovered when he gets into free agency next year. The focus is really on how soon can he play this season. But it's certainly damaging his value around the league, and probably unfairly so."
Thomas declined to discuss Isaiah’s reaction to the trade that sent point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, but the father said that while change can briefly be jarring, his son is well-equipped to handle it. “He’s still Isaiah, regardless of where he goes or what he does,” James Thomas said. “It’s a business. We’ve been doing good. Isaiah’s been doing great wherever he goes. And it’s just — it’s almost time for him to get paid.”
But questions remain about Thomas, who was hobbled by a serious hip injury during the most recent playoffs and is still set to undergo tests before training camp to establish his status. What’s more, the fact that he infamously called for the Celtics to “Back up the Brink’s truck” next summer when he’s eligible for a huge payday means Cleveland will have to eventually find clarity on this front. For James’ part, he’s on record as a huge fan of Thomas. “(The Celtics) got a clear-cut star and that’s Isaiah,” James said in late December. “The notion that they don’t have a star I think is 'fugazi' as Donnie Brasco would say. Earlier I was watching the movie. So, they’re a good team for a reason and it starts with the head of the snake and that’s Isaiah.”
Isaiah Thomas will have 7 years of service next summer as a FA. Cleveland would inherit his bird rights and could pay him a max salary starting at $30.6M.
"I'm a max (contract) guy, so I deserve the max," Thomas told CSN New England on Friday, echoing comments he made a year ago. "We've just got to continue to take care of business on the court and let the cards fall where they may. I'm happy for all the guards and all the other guys getting their money, because they deserve it, but my time's coming. They know they've got to bring the Brinks truck out," Thomas said with a smile.
For Thomas’ part, he swears he isn’t pondering the possibilities just yet. “Honestly, I haven't looked that far, but I know when that time comes it's definitely going to be a decision that I make that's best for me and my family,” Thomas told USA TODAY Sports on a recent visit to the NBA A to Z podcast (before the trade deadline). “I love Boston. They changed my career. They've given me an opportunity of a lifetime, and I can't thank them enough. But at the end of the day, as a businessman and as a professional basketball player, I've got to keep my options open. “I would love to be in Boston. I would love to bring a championship to Boston, and hopefully one day be a Boston Celtics legend like Danny Ainge said…You know this game is business, and you never know what's going to happen. So I've definitely got to keep my options open.”
“The Lakers (have) always been a team I wanted to go to, I mean desperately – before I was on the Celtics,” Thomas said in the A to Z interview. “My Dad, being a Laker fan (growing up in Tacoma, Wash.), I was brainwashed as a kid of being a Laker fan, so that's all I looked up to. I definitely (wanted to go there), especially in the draft (when) they had four second-round picks. “And when I did work out for the Lakers, they were interested in me and they thought they would pick me - which, they didn't. And also, when I was a free agent, they were showing interest but that was the year they were waiting on, like, Carmelo (Anthony) and those types of guys to decide if they would come to LA, so I wasn't like the first option. And then they ended up getting Jeremy Lin, so...”
Thomas has mentioned the notion “back up the Brinks truck” on a number of occasions, so it’s clear he wants to get paid for his rising stock — and, on his competitive side, for others passing him as he sits with a below-market deal in the new NBA economy.
squareclocks: How likely is it that IT's next contract will be with the Celtics? Mark Van Deusen: This makes me really nervous. He's always had a smile on his face so far, but IT has commented at least twice this offseason on how cheap his contract is. With him and Avery up at the same time in the summer of 2018, the C's may have to rework their backcourt. So much can change by then, but I'd say 50/50.
Justin Poulin: I think the likelihood is low because IT will be 29 when his contract up. That will be his last big contract opportunity. While Danny would love to have him back, it will always be with the caveat of "at the right price". With 18 months for Smart, Rozier and Bradley to get better and the know precipitous drop off of shorter PG's at age 30...the stars to do not appear to aligned for this.
Knowing he has a couple years remaining, Thomas said he definitely plans to cash in – literally – when he hits free agency in the summer of 2018. “They better bring out the Brinks truck. They’re paying everybody else. I gotta get something,” quipped Thomas during the Celtics’ summer league game on Saturday against Chicago.
August 6, 2021 | 12:37 am EDT Update
Goodwill made mention of the New York Knicks’ calculated moves, in how they coallign with a potential Lillard deal, should his relationship with the Blazer go awry. In providing his own outlook on the situation, Haynes had this to say. “I expect Damian Lillard to go and play for the Portland Trail Blazers. I expect him to try out this roster. I believe he wants to give Chauncey Billups a chance. And I think he’s going to go there, give the roster a shot. And Portland’s probably still not done. You know, I’m hearing Paul Millsap, a guy they’re looking at. I’m hearing Kelly Oubre, who’s still on the market, a guy that they’re looking at, so they’re still not done. But I expect Dame to go out there next season, play, see how things materialize, and go from there.
And then you Damian Lillard, who’s been as public as he’s ever been in stating his dissatisfaction with the way things are going with the team and the roster construction. And then you bring on these players, who I’m not saying, you know, Norman Powell they had to re-sign. Five years, they had to. You couldn’t let him go. But outside of that, there wasn’t much done that I think moves the needle. And you brought up that New York angle, you know, from all accounts of what we’re hearing, definitely, the Knicks have an eye on Damian Lillard, so we’ll see what happens from there.”
August 6, 2021 | 12:27 am EDT Update
Free agent wing Kelly Oubre Jr. and the Charlotte Hornets are finalizing an agreement on a multiyear deal, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The final numbers are still being ironed out, but his annual salary is expected to exceed $12 million, sources said.
NBA Top Shot will sell highlights from the upcoming Summer League basketball competition as non-fungible tokens for the first time, it said on Tuesday. The NFTs will feature outstanding play “moments” from three days of games at the NBA Summer League meet in Las Vegas, those on August 8-10. Fans will be able to pre-order the $5 moments from a kiosk at the venue. “For the first time ever, NBA Top Shot fans will have the ability to purchase a moment in an arena, and receive a moment from a game they saw in-person,” the company said in its statement.
NBA Top Shot is one of the biggest NFT marketplaces, recent data shows. In the month to August 4, it hosted 109,351 traders and carried out 671,149 sales, according to DappRadar. However, those tallies were down month-on-month by 35.15% and 53.39%, respectively.