As Isaiah Thomas attempts to make his return to the NBA, some things are falling into place for him.
The former Celtics star played in his first organized games in over a year last weekend, playing for Team USA in the AmeriCup qualifying games. Thomas put up a decent showing, scoring a team-high 28 points over the two games, and led Team USA to wins over The Bahamas and Mexico.
What may be more important for Thomas’s comeback though is his health.
From March 2017 through his last NBA game in February 2020, Thomas dealt with a right hip injury that saw him go from playing like an MVP candidate to someone who had to sign a minimum contract to get on an NBA roster. Finally, after years of pain and deteriorating play, Thomas decided to get resurfacing surgery for his injured right hip in May 2020.
The surgery might be a game-changer for Thomas. In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck, Thomas said “I’m moving like I did before the injury.”
“That was the biggest thing I wanted to show people — that I didn’t lose a step,” Thomas told Beck of his return to game action this month. “I’m still quick and fast. I’m still powerful. I’m able to move again.”
When Thomas made the decision to have the surgery, his right hip was in such bad shape that the cartilage in its joint was shot, Thomas’s surgeon Edwin Su told Beck. Instead of his right hip joint being in the “nice and smooth” shape it should be in, his right hip “was pitted like asphalt,” according to Su.
“Unbelievable. It’s a hip that most people can’t even walk on,” Su said. “You’re gonna have daily pain, pain at night, stiffness. … [Some] people have trouble just functioning on a daily basis.”
Following the surgery, Su said Thomas is “mechanically, where he was preinjury.” Thomas can concur with that, telling Beck that he can dunk a basketball again, something he wasn’t able to do since he suffered the injury.
With surgery and rehab behind him, Thomas looks to get back to playing on an NBA roster. Thomas did shoot well in his first two games back, making 6-of-12 3-pointers. However, one scout wasn’t fully impressed with what he saw from Thomas.
The type that’s gonna go get it, no kiddin’
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) February 21, 2021
“What made him so dynamic before was his ability to get to the rim and either finish or get fouled,” a scout told Beck. “I do not see that anymore.”
Thomas said he’s actually heard from at least three NBA teams since the AmeriCup games, and he heard from Celtics coach Brad Stevens, too.
“I’ve been the last pick. I’ve seen the bottom,” Thomas said. “I’ve seen the top — being an MVP [contender], an All-Star. And I’m back on the bottom now. I just need my foot in the door. Like I said when I got drafted: All I need is a chance. I’ll do the rest.”
Get Boston.com's browser alerts:
Enable breaking news notifications straight to your internet browser.