Isaiah Thomas Was A Comet At The Exact Wrong Point In His Career

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Isaiah Thomas Was A Comet At The Exact Wrong Point In His Career 

Post#1 » by RealGM Articles » Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:38 pm

Let’s start here: $27 million is more than enough money. That’s the amount Isaiah Thomas was paid from 2014 through 2018. If that’s not quite generational wealth, it’s way more than any one person needs in a lifetime. It’s also something like $100 million fewer than Thomas deserves. When we talk about the contract figures of professional athletes, we’re usually having a conversation that’s slightly abstracted. The actual cash involved is not the most important thing; it’s what the number represents and whether or not it’s roughly aligned with a player’s quality. It’s a conversation about fairness, who deserves which size slice of the pie, regardless of how big the entire pie actually is. Sometimes, more high-mindedly, it’s an examination of what capital-L Labor deserves in return for all the value they produce. (In the mind of this commie: basically everything.) But $27 million is plenty. Thomas is fine. His pride is bruised, but he can afford to get that looked at. 


With that said, man has he ever gotten hosed. He was drafted by the Kings with the final pick in the 2011 draft and played for less than a million bucks a year for three pretty good seasons in Sacramento, averaging 15.3 points and just under five assists per game over that span. Then he joined the Phoenix Suns via a sign-and-trade on the $27 million deal that proved to be wildly out of whack with his ability. The stint with the Suns didn’t work out, in large part because they had three starting-caliber point guards on the roster, but once Thomas was sent to the Celtics midway through the 2014-15 season, he began to soar. At his peak, in 2016-17, he was a fringe MVP contender, putting up 29 and 6 every night with astounding efficiency, and taking over games in the fourth quarter for a young Boston squad that desperately wanted to get out of the way and let a genius cook.


That beautiful season ended terribly for Thomas, not because the Celtics got annihilated by the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, but because he was playing through both grief and injury. In March, he hurt his hip in a game against the Timberwolves, further aggravated it in the second round against the Hawks, and didn’t play the final two games against the Cavs after getting roughed up by a Kevin Love screen. Worse than that, his sister had died in a traffic accident just before the playoffs started. Thomas endured all of this until he simply couldn’t anymore. He ran himself into the ground because he wouldn’t ever consider doing otherwise. He’s five-foot-nine, and maybe shorter, but as tough as they come.


The Celtics rewarded him by trading him away for Kyrie Irving. Danny Ainge never wanted to pay him a second contract anyway. Cleveland was a disaster. Following hip surgery and a long injury layoff, Thomas was clearly diminished, and LeBron James hated playing with him. The Cavs shipped him to Los Angeles in a cap-clearing move for the Lakers, and it’s lost to history what happened to Thomas after that. Some say he shot 38 percent from the field for a 35-win team, but who really knows.


Which, if we omit the portion of the Nuggets season Thomas has spent sitting on the bench in a suit jacket, brings us right about up to now. He’s on a one-year prove-it deal in which he hasn’t proven much, and he currently appears to be falling out of the Denver rotation as they gear up for the playoffs. This is not really anybody’s fault. The Nuggets were honest with Thomas last summer about how they were taking a flier on him. Thomas is trying his best, but he’s a shell of his former self. Mike Malone has to do whatever helps his basketball team ahead of what he hopes will be a deep postseason run. It’s good faith all the way around, and it all still kind of sucks. Isaiah Thomas is 29. He’s never been properly paid. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he’s out of the league in a year or two. 


This is not a tragedy, but it is a bummer. Maybe as far as it goes is you feel bad for Isaiah Thomas and then rarely think about him again once he’s playing in China or buying up car dealerships. But the relationship between fan and player is not as simple as rooting interests or a bodily sympathy. Athletes, in demonstrating the outer limits of what’s physically possible, stimulate our imaginations in much the same way great directors or musicians do, and we’re grateful for that. We want them to do well; we want them to get paid what they’re owed because we want them to feel fulfilled. That only seems fair. 


That’s not going to happen for Isaiah Thomas, who was a comet at the exact wrong point in his career. At the edge of NBA relevance, all he can do now is fight like hell to hold down a job. He’ll keep doing that until nobody wants him anymore, because that’s his relentless spirit. And he’ll forever be aggrieved about what he didn’t get. He’ll still be okay; he’s taken care of. That doesn’t mean he’s not right to be bitter.

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Re: Isaiah Thomas Was A Comet At The Exact Wrong Point In His Career 

Post#2 » by sean1913 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:35 pm

agree with all this but i do believe the whole "danny ainge did him wrong " is a little skewed. he's not KB24 or CP3 and has to be given a sweetheart deal to round out a hall of fame career! yes, he was good, great , but yes , you trade him for KI everytime! your job as a GM is to save the storied franchise that is the boston celtics! he was loved, he gave all, and we moved him when we could because the logo, the banners , the frikkin boston celtics! will out live us all!
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Re: Isaiah Thomas Was A Comet At The Exact Wrong Point In His Career 

Post#3 » by oceanlife » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:12 pm

sean1913 wrote:agree with all this but i do believe the whole "danny ainge did him wrong " is a little skewed. he's not KB24 or CP3 and has to be given a sweetheart deal to round out a hall of fame career! yes, he was good, great , but yes , you trade him for KI everytime! your job as a GM is to save the storied franchise that is the boston celtics! he was loved, he gave all, and we moved him when we could because the logo, the banners , the frikkin boston celtics! will out live us all!


I agree that at the time you trade IT for Kyrie Irving, I would have been more forthright about it if I were a GM but ultimately Kyrie was a great player who still had upside while IT had peaked. But having watched IT on the Celtics and Kyrie on the Celtics there's no doubt in my mind that Isaiah Thomas was flat out the better player on the Celtics.

I know if this were NBA 2Kwhatever that Kyrie would be rated 5+ points higher than IT but things just don't seem to flow with Kyrie. He brings drama and doesn't elevate his team like IT did. I believe if the Celtics had retained IT even in his diminished state they would be in a better position today. Maybe it's Kyrie or maybe he's just a bad fit with his current teammates. There are players in this league that have all the skills of a super star and in some games the eye test tells you they are all time greats, but for whatever reason they don't lead to success when they are the #1 option.
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Re: Isaiah Thomas Was A Comet At The Exact Wrong Point In His Career 

Post#4 » by Oncloud9 » Sat Mar 16, 2019 1:05 am

Isaiah Thomas is the most recent example for NBA players who played through injury for the team and had the bad timing of it watched his career earning prospects tank. Call it Ainge doing what was best for the franchise if you want, but if you are Tatum or Brown and up for extension, you'd better not get hurt. If you get hurt, you'd better be getting outside medical opinion before agreeing to play through the injury.
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Re: Isaiah Thomas Was A Comet At The Exact Wrong Point In His Career 

Post#5 » by droner20 » Sat Mar 16, 2019 10:10 pm

He got injured. Perspective is just lost on hot takey sports fan. He went into three of the oddest situations imaginable with an injury. A win now Lebron team, followed by a colluding Lakers team that just needed him for a season ( a team that ditched Randle, and Lopez in a jiffy along with Thomas), followed by a sudden rising team in the Nuggets (that rose without him, so he can't suddenly fit in come playoff time). He'd be perfect in a place like Orlando or the Pistons right, or even back up in Milwaukee, Sixers. People just need to get real honestly.

If you don't think he's better than Augustin to help Magic get through the playoff push, you're just nuts. I hope he fits into one of these small market, 6-9 seed teams and pushes them up next year. That is his best fit.
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Re: Isaiah Thomas Was A Comet At The Exact Wrong Point In His Career 

Post#6 » by Dan Z » Mon Mar 18, 2019 2:53 am

It's a bummer that he got hurt and hasn't been able to get back to the level that he was once at. But he has been able to play a game he loves, at the top level, and earned 32 million in the process. I bet someone will sign him next year too.

There's a limit to how bad I feel for him. Would you rather that he signed a big contract right before he got hurt? Sure that would be good for him financially, but that would suck for the team who did it. It'd be another situation like Chandler Parsons in Memphis (or any other bad deal that has happened in the NBA). Fans would eventually turn on him much like they do Chandler (and I get it).
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Re: Isaiah Thomas Was A Comet At The Exact Wrong Point In His Career 

Post#7 » by Rashidi » Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:34 pm

If IT got the contract he wanted it would have been the 2nd worst contract in the NBA (after John Wall's supermax).

He hasn't done anything since leaving the Celtics and he was always miscast as a starter due to his inability to defend.

He was born to be a sixth man and wanted more than that. He can still carve out a Lou Williams-type backend if he works on his game. He'll need to adjust to his declining athleticism and rely more on skill. Earl Boykins played until he was 35 and he was half the player IT was.

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