Isaiah Thomas has had to deal with a lot over the past year and his path back to superstardom doesn’t look like it’s getting any easier.
The former All-Star has left the Los Angeles Lakers to get treatment options for his sore hip, with pain still remaining from the injury that ruled him out of last year’s playoffs and kept him sidelined for much of this season.
Thomas, who rehabbed back from a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear, apparently isn’t back to full strength yet, even after sitting out more than seven months.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were unwilling to wait for the 29-year-old to get back to full health, shipping him to the Lakers at the trade deadline after having him on the floor for just 15 games.
The point guard averaged 14.7 points on 36.1 per cent shooting overall and 25.3 per cent on 3-pointers during his tenure with Cleveland. He’s been only marginally better through 17 games with Los Angeles, fielding averages of 15.6 points, 38.3 per cent shooting and 32.7 per cent from long range.
With the Lakers out of playoff contention and only a couple weeks left in the season, it makes sense for Thomas to shut it down and restart his recovery.
Unfortunately for Thomas, that would mean having no more opportunities to show he can still be the player he was last season with the Boston Celtics – when he carried the team to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and finished fifth in MVP voting – before hitting free agency in the summer.
It’s unlikely the last couple weeks of the season will influence Thomas’ earning potential anyways. Regardless, the ‘Brinks truck’ days are a thing of the past as the diminutive guard almost surely won’t get anywhere near a max contract from any suitor.
The more likely outcome would be Thomas, who has carried a massive chip on his shoulder ever since entering the league as the last pick of the 2011 draft, betting on himself with a one-year deal that allows him to show he can still perform at an All-Star level. That would be the only path to securing the lucrative contract that he was expecting when he was still in Boston.
Whether or not he can, however, is a different matter.
The hip injury was a long-term concern even before he started feeling soreness again with the Lakers.
With Thomas standing just 5-foot-9, any hit to his athleticism has the potential to severely hinder his game, which is predicated on quickness.
Other stars throughout history have managed to offset losing a step by utilising their skill – however they weren’t as vertically-challenged as Thomas is.
Losing a step for Thomas could be the difference between crossing over a defender and knocking down a pull-up jumper, and having no space to work with.
Plus, with the point guard position as deep as it is across the league, few teams will be dying to sign an aging, short, damaged playmaker this offseason.
It doesn’t necessarily mean Thomas’ career is over, but the mountain he was attempting to scale to get back to where he was just got steeper.
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