Storyline: Isaiah Thomas Injury

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Isaiah Thomas laughed at the doctor. His latest injury, a torn ligament in his left thumb, had rewritten Murphy’s Law. On Sept 16., Thomas was playing in the first pickup game of the day with his new Washington Wizards teammates when he attempted to secure the ball and jammed his thumb. Though he played on, the swollen finger would later turn purple. After Thomas received the results of an MRI exam — which revealed he would require surgery to repair a ruptured radial collateral ligament — all he could do was chuckle.
5 months ago via ESPN

Isaiah Thomas is hopeful his season with the Denver Nuggets and a full 2019 summer of work become a pathway back into an NBA rotation, a full-time resumption of a career sidetracked with hip surgery. “Nobody knew what to expect with me coming off hip surgery last year, and two summers of rehab,” Thomas told ESPN. “Now, I can go back to being a gym rat this summer, work on my game again, and build my body back up — my muscle mass, my leg strength — all like I had going into the 2017 season.”

One of Crawford’s strongest NBA relationships is actually with a former Celtic who was traded for Irving. Isaiah Thomas and Crawford share Seattle-Tacoma roots, and the latter is bullish on Thomas’ future as he prepares to return from his hip problem. “That’s a brother,” Crawford said. “He’ll be a monster when he comes back. I couldn’t imagine him missing one day of basketball, and with all this time he’s missed, he’s going to be a monster. I’m excited for him.”

Former Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas has yet to play in a game for the Nuggets this season as he continues to work his way back from last March’s hip surgery. Suns guard Jamal Crawford, who has been one of Thomas’s closest friends for more than 10 years, said he speaks to the point guard every day. And as the doubters pile on — just as they have throughout Thomas’s career — Crawford said that Thomas is just using it as fuel. “It’s going to create an even bigger monster, how hungry he’ll be to get back out on that court,” Crawford said. “He loves basketball and he’d be hungry if he missed one game. The fact that he missed all this time, he’s going to be a monster.”

Last summer Thomas, who once had visions of signing a maximum-salary contract when he reached free agency, inked a one-year deal with the Nuggets for $2 million, the veteran’s minimum. “With him, nothing’s ever come easy, so why expect it now?” Crawford said. “Not that he did, but in general that’s just his journey. He’s doing well, considering everything. He’s working to get back. He loves the game as much as anybody I’ve ever been around, so I know it’s killing him.”

Thomas, who is targeting a return some time this month, has had to channel his energy into being a leader in practices, on the sidelines and in huddles. It’s also not uncommon to see him jawing with opponents during games, his suited frame teeming with animation. “I see Isaiah’s true personality at times, but I also see there are times where he’s frustrated,” Malone said. “Some guys when they’re out and they’re not playing, they’re okay with that. We have two guys in Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas, it’s killing both of those guys not to be able to play.”

Katy Winge: Talked with @Isaiah Thomas this morning about Sue Bird. I started the conversation by asking what comes to his mind when he hears that name. “A legend. A basketball legend.” He also told me Bird was someone he turned to before deciding to get hip surgery. His full thoughts: pic.twitter.com/795d5b0poD

Smart has no doubt that Thomas, who has spent his entire life in basketball overcoming the cynicism of the basketball establishment, will eventually succeed again, this time as a proven veteran scorer on a team of young stars. “Oh man, IT, man, he’s gonna be alright,” said Smart. “I think it’s good he’s taken this full year off to rehab that body and give himself a chance to be ready for next season. Get his mind back right, clear his mind and get focused. But this will do justice for him and he’ll come back strong.”

Chris Dempsey: Isaiah Thomas continues to rehab from arthroscopic hip surgery in March. His availability for training camp next week remains in question. Here is Tim Connelly, #Nuggets President of Basketball Ops, on Thomas’ status during an interview for Wednesday’s Nuggets 360 on @AltitudeTV

More than three hours after the first day of practice wrapped up last Thursday, Isaiah Thomas was still working out on the court inside UNLV’s practice facility with Phil Handy, one of the NBA’s top player development coaches, who was recently hired by the Toronto Raptors. Despite still recovering from hip surgery earlier this year, Thomas was in Vegas and participating as much as he could, wanting to show how much it meant to him to be part of the program. It also served as yet another reminder of how much has changed for him since he exited the 2017 playoffs with a hip injury that sent his career careening in a very different direction from where it was not long ago.
1 year ago via ESPN

“If I didn’t play in the playoffs, I’d be OK,” Thomas says. “I’d be getting paid. I’d be who I am — who I was. But you couldn’t tell me in that moment in time — with everything I was going through — that, OK, I should just sit out. I don’t think Boston went about it the right way, as well. “But at the same time, it was hard for me to sit out. I just lost my sister, one of the closest people in my life. Basketball was the only thing that was going to help me out. I played until I literally couldn’t play anymore. And that was not a good business decision if I was looking in the long term, but I was looking in the ‘right now.’ That’s just what it was.

Thomas has dropped in free-agent stature almost through no fault of his own. The problem here is his hip, which front-office execs around the league fear is either pre-arthritic or already arthritic. Maybe the only way that Thomas has hurt his own free agency has been by not choosing to have hip surgery sooner during last season, when he was an All-Star and an MVP candidate for the Celtics. “It’s a red flag that he did not have surgery on it,” one general manager told Sporting News. “If you have a problem that can be fixed heading into your free-agent year, you get surgery. If there is concern that you can’t fix it with surgery, that means probably there is something more wrong. It is something that, obviously, the doctors will look at closely.”

Off the floor, he would be subject to more swelling and increased pain. Of course, he’s gotten accustomed to hip pain in recent years. But any team that signs him this summer will protect itself against the possibility that Thomas has serious hip damage. “I think everybody likes the guy,” the GM said. “You root for him. But do you want to pay him $12 or 14 million when you know you’re also paying for all the headaches that his health could give you? Someone will get him, but it’s going to be a low-risk deal.”

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.

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.”

Thomas, meanwhile, estimated he’s at about 75-80 percent as he continues to work his way back from that hip injury. A hindered Thomas, coupled with an injured-and-absent Love, could spell disastrous for a Cavs team that will fall to fourth in the East if they lose to Miami at home on Wednesday. 20. “I don’t have anything I used to have right now and I know I will at one point, but it’s just a process that I gotta really be patient with myself,” Thomas said. “Set small goals to reach, because coming back I just want it all right now. It’s just not realistic for anybody that’s been out as long as I have.”
2 years ago via ESPN

A source told ESPN that Thomas would be held to 8-to-12 minutes in his debut. “I know it’s going to take time at first and we got to go through the steps of going out there and playing in the game and figuring those things out but once I get comfortable then all the restrictions got to be off soon,” Thomas said.

Isaiah Thomas can envision his emotional return to TD Garden if he’s cleared to play against his former team, the Boston Celtics, next Wednesday. But as the two-time All-Star point guard found out days ago in Sacramento, where he pushed to make his Cavaliers debut, the team’s training and medical staff will not make a rash decision. Thomas took another step in his recovery from a torn labrum in his right hip Friday, participating in a five-on-five scrimmage against teammates at St. Helena High School. Coach Tyronn Lue said Thomas pushed the pace, got into the paint and scored on pick-and-rolls. “Really looked good,” Lue said in a conference call with beat writers.
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