A year ago, Thomas seemed destined to land a maximum contract in the summer of 2018. Now, he faces a questionable market in which there are already only a few teams with max slots available. Will anyone want to spend that kind of money on a player with an unproven hip? Thomas said he was unconcerned with free agency. “The results will show that the surgery only fixed it,” he said. “The world knew that I never got my labrum fixed when I was going through that and trying to heal on my own. … The decision that I made it felt like it was the best decision for me personally, individually, as a basketball player for the rest of my career.”
“I don’t know what will happen in terms of [Isaiah Thomas'] contract, but he deserves to make money in this game,” said Olynyk, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Heat this summer. “He’s brought a lot to the game, brought a lot to that city in Boston. Anywhere he goes, he gives his heart and soul to the game of basketball. Last year, [during our playoff run] we didn’t know it, but he was sacrificing his own career for everybody in that city. No one knew that at the time.
Kelly Olynyk on Isaiah Thomas: “If you look back a year now, he literally sacrificed his career, his earnings, everything for that stretch. And then to get traded and get traded again and now to have surgery, I don’t know if he has any regrets or looks at it a different way, but you just wish him the best. Good people deserve good things in this world and hopefully it comes for him.”
He was the 60th pick in a draft in which nobody liked him. He was undervalued by Sacramento and discarded by Phoenix before finding a coach (Stevens) and a GM (Danny Ainge) who believed in him in Boston. They didn’t just give him playing time, either — he earned it. “He’s a tough sucker, man,” former Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty told Yahoo Sports. “He played through pain. He’d go down, he’d get right back up. IT is always IT. Win, lose, he’s the same giving, loving person. He worked hard. He was in the gym more than anybody. He put the time in. He did all the right things.”
So what’s next? There are only a handful of teams with real cap space this summer and even fewer where Thomas makes sense. The Sixers will have room — they also have Markelle Fultz. The Mavericks have room. But there’s Dennis Smith, too. Chicago and Atlanta are rebuilding and make no sense for a near-30-year-old point guard coming off a brutal season. “No one is going long there [with a deal], in all likelihood,” former Cavs GM David Griffin told Yahoo Sports. “[The hip] is a very significant factor. His whole game is predicated upon quickness and creating shot separation. If he can’t do that, he is a small non-defender.”
And the system? “I was pleased with [Isaiah Thomas'] willingness to come off the bench in L.A.,” David Griffin said. “[It] will be very important for next season that teams believe he is willing to do whatever it takes to win and isn’t caught up in the semantics of a starting role. His willingness to speak up immediately in Cleveland was a terrible fit for the locker room, but not entirely a negative. If he is in a role as veteran leader, as he was in L.A., it can be important, positive trait.” Added Billy King: “He needs a system that allows him to shoot whenever he wants. This year, you heard some of the knocks on him before he got to Boston. That he wasn’t the greatest teammate. That you couldn’t find the right system to put him in because he needed to shoot all the time. Then he went to Boston, and Boston needed him to shoot all the time. That’s also probably why they were looking to move him, because they were building around Gordon Hayward and looking to play a different way.”
Despite a looming surgical procedure on his right hip, the Los Angeles Lakers continue to hold an interest in exploring a free-agent deal with guard Isaiah Thomas this summer, league sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Chris Mannix: Isaiah Thomas is likely looking at a one-year deal this summer, and it could be good money from a team needing to meet the salary floor. At 29, next season will be huge.
Ryan Ward: #Lakers will provide an update on Isaiah Thomas after his surgery. Unfortunate turn of events for the vet who was hoping to make an impression before hitting free agency
With just 12 games remaining in the regular season, Frye said he wants to see where he “could fit in for the future.” If it’s with the Lakers, he also can envision himself serving as a bit of a matchmaker. “I think a lot of vets are going to ask me how it is,” Frye said. “They’re going to ask I.T. (Isaiah Thomas) how it is.”
And while Thomas sees himself as a starter, he told The Times he wouldn't rule out returning to the Lakers in a role similar to what he has now, coming off the bench for significant minutes. "I like it here, I like the situation I'm in, the system, coaching staff," Thomas said. "Organization's been great to me. If things work out I would love to be here. You just never know. With free agency you've got to keep your options open. I have no complaints since I've stepped foot and put a Laker uniform on."
Thomas knows that. And he knows what will be important to him this summer. "Obviously I want to make a lot of money, but I want to be where I'm wanted at and where the team wants me to be who I am," Thomas told The Times. "And that's being an All-Star. Being a special guard in this league."
"I want to be great," Thomas said. "I want to win MVP, I want to continue to be an All-Star. Their goals probably aren't that yet. Coming straight into the league especially at 19, 20 years old. They're in it for the experience just to figure things out on their own. And then on top of getting to the playoffs and winning championships, I want all that and it might not be their mindset yet. But at the same time being on this team I'm trying to put that in their heads that you can do whatever you put your mind to. Why not think big?"
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.
September 24, 2021 | 5:26 am EDT Update
Former EuroLeague center Tarik Black is back in the NBA. According to a tweet from the player’s agency Priority Sports, Black signed a contract with the Denver Nuggets to return to the league after spending the last three seasons in Europe.
Grizzlies PR: The @memgrizz today announced the team’s 2021 training camp roster. Memphis converted Yves Pons to a two-way contract and signed Shaq Buchanan and Sean McDermott. In addition, the Grizzlies waived Carsen Edwards and Daniel Oturu.
Kristaps Porzingis is entering his third full season with the Dallas Mavericks and is hoping for a fresh start under Jason Kidd after the team parted ways with Rick Carlisle. “I’ll say this: at the end of last year Porzingis wanted to be traded,” said Tim MacMahon on The Hoop Collective Podcast. “My understanding is he feels like he has a fresh start with the coaching change. He’s had the healthy offseason. He’s been able to work, not just on his game but on his body some more. That he’s coming back with a refreshed feel. “At the end of last year, he wasn’t going to come out and ask for a trade. He’s smart enough to understand the optics.”
“He’s already done that once,” replied Brian Windhorst. “But at the end of last year when he stood in the corner and checked the wind for an entire playoff series, he was hoping to be traded,” added MacMahon. “From what I gather, he’s coming back optimistic now.”
The team themselves have never addressed those reports, but during his customary preseason media availability, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka did push back on the sentiment of them nonetheless, disputing the premise of a question about whether keeping Talen Horton-Tucker or Caruso was “an either/or decision” for the team. “We made an aggressive attempt to re-sign Alex Caruso, and we made an aggressive attempt to keep Talen,” Pelinka said on Thursday. “That’s the thing with unrestricted free agency is that you can be in the mix, but players control the ultimate choice.”
“Alex was tremendous here as a championship player, and we’ll be forever grateful for his contributions and his growth,” Pelinka said. “Seeing him go from a G Leaguer, to a two-way (player), to an elite player was something we’ll always be proud of. But he had choices and he chose another team. We pursued him and wanted to keep him, same with Talen, and obviously came to a deal with Talen, and Alex moved on.”
The 6-9 James was listed as weighing 250 pounds last season. Entering his 19th season in the NBA and turning 37 in December, James felt he needed to make a change. “I think the thing that stands out is his fitness level, and he’s slimmed up,” Pelinka said on a videoconference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. “I think … we all know LeBron studies the greats and he adds things into his game and I think going into this stage of his career he’s made a decision to come back a little bit leaner and I think that’s going to translate in explosiveness and quickness.”