The New Orleans Pelicans are
signing Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day contract, sources confirmed to
BasketballNews.com. The news was first reported by
Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Thomas' most-recent NBA stint
was with the Washington Wizards last season, when he averaged 12.2
points, 3.7 assists, 2.0 threes and 1.7 rebounds (while shooting
41.3% from deep) in 23.1 minutes per game. He became a free agent
last February after the Wizards traded him to the Los Angeles
Clippers, who subsequently waived him. Ever since, he’s been
staying in shape and waiting for the right NBA opportunity to
A hip injury has limited Thomas
ever since he left the Boston Celtics in 2017. However, after
undergoing resurfacing surgery on his right hip last May, the
32-year-old is confident that he can look more like his former self
on the court.
"It's like night and day for
told ESPN. "There's no more pain. I've got my full range
of motion. For three years, I was trying to play the best players
in the world on one leg. I needed help from my kids to put my socks
on in the morning. Now, I can lift weights. I can squat low. I can
work out twice a day. I'm able to cut and move and stop, able to
cut and go. I feel like I'm  years old again."
In an effort to show that he’s
100% healthy and still capable of producing at a high level, Thomas
recently suited up for Team USA in two FIBA AmeriCup qualifying
games. He did well, lifting the team to a 2-0 record and leading
the squad in scoring. In his first game back against the Bahamas,
he had 19 points, 5 threes, 4 rebounds and 2 assists (while
shooting 55.6% from three) in 21 minutes of
Just four seasons ago, Thomas
finished fifth in MVP voting and averaged 28.9 points per game,
which was the third-best scoring average in the NBA. He was named
to the All-NBA Second Team and made his second All-Star appearance.
If this is truly the first time he’s been healthy since that
2016-17 season, it makes sense why the Pelicans want to see what’s
left in the tank.
This is a low-risk, high-reward
signing for New Orleans. If Thomas thrives, they get a steal and
can sign him for the remainder of the season. If he struggles, they
can move on after 10 days.
New Orleans needs backcourt help
since Lonzo Ball will be sidelined for some time due to a strained
right hip flexor, and Josh Hart is also out for a while after an
MRI revealed a torn UCL in his right thumb. Thomas can provide
instant offense off the bench as well as veteran leadership for New
Orleans’ developing guards: Ball (23 years old), Kira Lewis Jr.
(19) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (22). Even New Orleans’ best
players -- Zion Williamson (20) and Brandon Ingram (23) -- are
young and could benefit from Thomas’ mentorship.
Last February, when Thomas hit
the free-agent market,
I caught up with the veteran point
guard for a one-on-one
interview. He told me that
he would love to join “an up-and-coming team where I’m helping the
young players and being a good veteran,” which perfectly describes
the Pelicans’ situation.
When asked what he can bring to
a team, Thomas didn’t hesitate.
“Everything that I’ve always
brought to a team. I’m a leader, first and foremost,” Thomas
told me. “I won the NBA’s Community Assist award so,
off the court, I help in the community. On the court, I think it’s
self-explanatory what I bring to a team when given an opportunity.
I also bring my wisdom. I don’t think anybody has been through the
things that I’ve gone through in this league. Despite obstacle
after obstacle, I’ve overcome everything that’s been thrown at me
and taken advantage of any opportunity that I’ve gotten. I think
that’s what is most important… Understand that any opportunity
that’s given to me, I’ll be ready for it. And I think everybody
Thomas has spent the last
year “staying in the gym,
staying in the weight room and doing a lot of conditioning,” so
that he could shine when his number is called. He’s been waiting
for this opportunity.
Every step of Thomas’ journey,
he has been doubted. Remember, before becoming a two-time All-Star,
he was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2011 NBA Draft (which means he was
picked last). At this point, he’s used to being counted out and not
having anything handed to him. He thinks this past year is just
another setback that he’ll bounce back from, just another
opportunity to silence his doubters.
“I mean, it’s just another
chapter in my book,” Thomas told me. “This has been my story
and that’s probably the way it’s always going to be. Everything is
going to be an uphill battle and that’s fine because I’ve been
through it. I think that just builds character… I work hard, I
never cheated the game and I’m in it for all of the right reasons.
this game. But it’s never been
easy, so why would it be easy now?
“You have to continue to believe
in yourself and be a professional, on and off the court. I think
being professional is one of the most important attributes of a
player. You have to know that it’s a business and, at the same
time, just do your part each and every day – no matter what the
circumstances are. You should appreciate the highs, but appreciate
the lows as well. I’ve always said that my goals are bigger than
the obstacles I faced. Adversity builds character. I’m not saying
it’s easy (because it’s not), but I always look at my end goal,
which is to try to be one of the best best basketball players to
ever play the game. I mean that. I just turned  years old, and
I still have a lot of basketball left in me.”