Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

By Tim REIMOLDS, AP Basketball writer

One day was the last spring when Isaiah Thomas saw that he could lift his leg without any pain. It had not happened in years.

This weekend, he plans to show the NBA what it means for his game.

More than a year before his last NBA appearance, and nine months after surgery he said he had a bone-on-bone condition fixed in his right hip, Thomas has games to play. Two-time All-Star San Juan, Puerto Rico – and Thomas are suing USA Basketball for a pair of FIBA ​​Americoops qualifying NBA teams.

“My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA as soon as possible,” Thomas, 32, told the Associated Press. “It allows me to compete against other professionals, represent my country at the same time – which is an honor and a privilege – and ultimately show NBA teams that I’m back on my own and I am 100% healthy. So I opted to come here. When Team USA brought it to me, it was a brainless person. “

Games don’t technically mean much to America; The Americans have already qualified for the 2022 US tournament in September. But for Thomas, the matchups against the Bahamas on Friday and Mexico on Saturday make a lot of sense.

“My skill went nowhere,” Thomas said. “The biggest question was whether I was 100% healthy. I am now, so why not show it on a stage with ‘USA’ across my chest? “

Thomas is part of an American roster loaded with NBA veterans for these two qualifying games. Joe Johnson is on the team, as is Brandon Bais, and there are five more players within the league with some experience other than Thomas.

Typically, the US roster for these qualifying games is made up almost entirely of G League players, names that are not domestic at all. NBA names include a lot of intrigue, as is Thomas’ return to game action.

“Isaiah, he has a soul about him, a love for sports that I’ve seen not only from conversations that I had with him before we arrived, but since we’ve been practicing,” Joe Prunty, Joe Will lead the American coaching staff in these two sports. “he looks nice.”

Johnson – the 39-year-old, who scored 20,405 points in his 17 NBA seasons – offered even more praise after watching Thomas in practices this week.

“He looks great,” Johnson said. “One thing I’ll say: In Pick and Rolls, I think he’s probably going to be invincible. Big, I don’t know what they’ll do. Do you get out and defend? He’ll go around you and Will split you. Do you try to catch him? He’ll pull over for a jumper. He has a great arsenal. It was fun to watch him play, man. I’ll tell you what

Thomas last played for Washington on February 3, 2020. He was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers three days later, then waived, and has not appeared in an NBA game since. Hip surgery – revival, it is called – was performed three months later, and Thomas said the hips felt better immediately.

So now, he is devising another way to avoid obstacles.

He was No. 60, and the last, pick in the 2011 draft. The other 73 final picks – provided, the draft used to include more than 200 players – have combined to score 6,644 points, while Thomas has an NBA total of 9,508. He heard many times that at 5-foot-9 he was too young for the NBA; He scored 28.9 points for Boston in 2016–17, the highest in league history for anyone.

Thomas said, “I’ve already proven who I am.” I still love sports. I just need a chance. “

The 2017 season is when four years of pain began, both physically and personally. On the eve of Celtic’s playoff opener, sister Chyna died in a car accident. Thomas played, scoring 53 points in the second round game, which was his sister’s 23rd birthday. But hip issues had already begun, and Thomas took off after that postseason.

That summer, he was traded to Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. Nothing has remained the same since; He appeared in only 84 games at an average of 12.8 points.

The G League teams talked to him about playing this season; This was never a serious consideration for Thomas. When USA Basketball called, he saw the opportunity.

Thomas said, “I’m as good now as I’ve been at any point in the last three years.” “Playing for USA basketball is going to allow teams to see the way I’m moving, the way I’m playing, that I’m back on my own, come back to being a player Have been what everyone is accustomed to seeing. I strongly believe that when they see me this weekend, someone is going to pull the trigger and give me that chance – and I’m more than ready for it Going to be

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