INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Isaiah Thomas has spent his entire basketball career answering questions about his game and whether a 5-foot-9 guard could play let alone thrive in the NBA.
With each twist, turn and unexpected setback he has faced, Thomas has consistently responded with an emphatic showing that left little doubt in anyone’s mind that he is up to the challenge, any challenge, that’s put before him.
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The summer of 2018 was supposed to be when all his hard work, those long hours in the gym honing his shooting touch, would lead to a major payday for this free agent-to-be.
But a hip injury last season that has yet to fully heal and has created some concern as to whether he’ll return to the court and play at a comparable level we saw last season with the Celtics.
His size and ability have at times been questioned.
But his health?
This is a new one.
“It’s been a little difficult but at the same time, I’m here to control what I can control,” Thomas said. “I can’t do anything other than that.”
Thomas, who finished fifth in the league’s MVP race after averaging 28.9 points per game last game which ranked third in the NBA and tops in the East, has put together the kind of resume that injury or not, would make him a lock to get a fat payday next summer from some team.
There is little doubt that a double-standard exists for players like Thomas who at 5-9, doesn’t look the part of a superstar even though his play and his numbers and impact on winning, suggest otherwise.
Chandler Parsons is a solid NBA player but not nearly as decorated in terms of accolades or accomplishments as Isaiah Thomas.
And yet despite an injury-riddled career, the 6-10 Parsons has still managed to rank among the highest paid players in the NBA.
Following the 2015-2016 season in Dallas, Parsons opted out of the final year of his contract with the Mavericks – worth $16 million - despite missing the end of the season and the playoffs with a meniscus tear which was the latest setback in a career that has been marred with knee injuries.
That didn’t prevent the Memphis Grizzlies from signing him in 2016 to a four-year, $94 million contract.
His first season in Memphis featured career lows in just about every statistical category, including games played (34) as this season, like the previous two, was cut short because of a knee injury.
As good as Thomas has been, him getting that Brinks truck-like payday will hinge heavily on how quickly he returns to the floor and how well he performs while proving the hip is a non-issue.
“When that time comes, free agency comes, I’m going to get what I deserve, get what I earned,” said Thomas, who later told CSNNE.com that he’s in the process of finding a new agent. “That’s just what it is and we’re going to go from there.
Thomas added, “until then I’m going to do whatever I can to get back on the floor healthy and then hopefully be in the (NBA) Finals next year and win a championship.”