By Mary Cunningham
Free-agent point guard Isaiah Thomas has agreed to a one-year deal with the Wizards, who lost point guard Tomas Satoransky to the Chicago Bulls on a three-year, $30 million contract yesterday.
Thomas is optimistic that the surgically repaired hip that impaired his past two summers will allow him a full offseason of training so he can make a more impactful return to the league this season.
The Denver Nuggets signed Thomas to a one-year deal last summer and were patient with him, allowing him to fully rehab before returning to the court prior to the All-Star break in February. Denver had one of the NBA’s best records and a deep roster of guards, and ultimately it was difficult for Thomas to crack the rotation. He played 12 regular-season games for the Nuggets, averaging eight points. There had been hope he’d have a bigger role, but it never materialized.
“Nobody knew what to expect with me coming off hip surgery last year and two summers of rehab,” Thomas told ESPN recently. “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.”
In parts of his eight NBA seasons with Sacramento, Phoenix, Boston, Cleveland, the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver, Thomas has averaged nearly 15 points per game. He averaged 28.9 points per game for the Boston Celtics in 2016-17, a second-team All-NBA season that appeared to put Thomas on his way to a long-term contract. Instead, a right hip injury that prematurely ended his playoff run in 2017 (and cost him eight months of rehab) and a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers later in 2017 upended his hopes for a long-term deal.
Thomas joined the Lakers as part of a trade-deadline deal with Cleveland, with which he played only 15 games in 2017-18. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract with Denver the following season.
“Denver allowed me to take really as much time as I needed to get back to 100 percent health,” Thomas told ESPN. “Obviously, I wanted to play, and I thought I could’ve contributed in the regular season and playoffs, but I understood [coach Mike Malone’s] decision, and I think I contributed in other ways as a leader, as someone who was there to answer the questions of the younger guys. I stayed ready and prepared to play.
“When I look at it from the outside, I understood it. I missed 50 games, the team was having a helluva season, and it wasn’t easy to just squeeze me in there when so many guys were playing so well. They didn’t want to mess up what they had going. I understood it.”