Fifteen months ago, Isaiah Thomas was mentioned in the same breath of elite players like Steph Curry and LeBron James.
A free agent this offseason with interest primarily from the Orlando Magic, Thomas signed with the Denver Nuggets for the NBA’s veteran’s minimum contract of $4.5 million.
This is a fall from grace from a player who led the Boston Celtics to the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals in their magical 2016-2017 run.
Bothered by a much publicized hip injury, Thomas was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer in exchange for Kyrie Irving.
Irving was great this year in comparison to Thomas who played 15 games for the Cavs before being traded again to the Los Angeles Lakers at the NBA’s trading deadline in February.
To recap, since the 2016 season, Isaiah Thomas went from being the focal point of the Boston Celtics’ offense, to playing 15 games in LeBron James and Kevin Love’s shadow in Cleveland to being a mentor to Lonzo Ball with the Los Angeles Lakers’ to a hope in redemption as a member of the Denver Nuggets.
Yup, that’s a lot! He needs a new beginning.
“Denver is a great place for him, NBA Hall of Famer, Clyde Drexler told me by phone.
“I think he’ll have a chance to get out of the spotlight, work on his game, work on his health, more importantly. I’m rooting for him.”
Maybe describing the city of Cleveland over the weekend as a “shi*hole” was not Thomas’ best choice in words and he’s since apologized, he is a dynamic basketball player, who loves the game of basketball.
Thomas has to prove himself all over again. He’s has what fellow Seattle native and NBA brethren Jamal Crawford described last week on the Scoop B Radio Podcast as “a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder.”
“One, he’s just an awesome player,” said Drexler. “Two, his injury is part of the reason he had the salary decrease.”
Drexler has room to speak. In an era where Michael Jordan was everything, The Glyde had something to prove himself.
As per NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman, 20 years ago, Clyde Drexler earned $1,378,000 while placing second in MVP voting. He earned the same salary the following season then got a raise to $1,578,000 the season after.
That’s the last time a player earned less than Thomas’ $2,029,463 salary for next season while finishing top five for MVP or within two seasons after.
“Well, to make this real easy, I played with a chip on my shoulder for 15 years,” laughed Drexler.
“You play to be the best. You don’t worry about all that other stuff; you play to be the best. And if you don’t win, that makes you even more hungry to get better in the offseason, come back, and try it again. And that’s what professional sports is all about. You’ve got to remember this is a team game. It’s not an individual game, it’s not golf or tennis. If it were golf or tennis I would’ve done pretty well. But when you’re in a team game you can get 60 points and 40 rebounds, but if I don’t make the free throws at the end of the game, we don’t win. Because that’s what a team means. You’re only as good as your team. You’ve got to do whatever you can to elevate your team members and yourself and I tried to do that every year I played in the NBA. So, it wasn’t just that year. It was every year.”
So what do you see in the crystal ball of production for the Denver Nuggets’ new guard, Isaiah Thomas, Mr. Drexler? “He’ll be fine,” he said.
“If he can prove that he can get back to 28 points a game, almost 29 points a game average, he’ll be okay.”