Thomas: When free agency comes, 'I’m going to get what I deserve'

Thomas: When free agency comes, 'I’m going to get what I deserve'

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.


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.”


Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

LOS ANGELES – Al Horford is credited for consistently being someone whose play contributes heavily to winning games.

But it was in defeat in the playoffs nearly a decade ago to the Boston Celtics that has shaped him into the player we see before us today.

“They were a tough team,” Horford said of the eventual NBA champion Celtics. “Defensively, just as good as they come. They looked like a very together group.”

Horford added, “It helped me tremendously. It helped that team that I was with in Atlanta, a lot. To have that experience, to go against the eventual champions but at that time a veteran team like the Celtics, it really but really made me realize the level I needed to play and the things I needed to do to for the team to be successful.”

And those lessons have helped shape the 31-year-old into being a five-time all-star whose teams have been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA.

“That first year could not have gone any better. It was a great learning experience and I felt it helped set up the rest of my career,” Horford said.

These days, Horford finds himself as the voice of experience on a Celtics team that has been among the NBA’s best squads for most of this season.

Horford has an open-door policy when it comes to doling out advice and tips for improvement, to his younger teammates.

But he knows first-hand the greatest teacher is experience.

“You can say things but you have to live through different things,” Horford said. “The biggest thing I try to emphasize to them and coach (Brad Stevens) talks about, is embracing the now. It’s about taking advantage of what we have now. 

Horford added, "I've been in the league, this is my 11th year, you never know if you’re going to have the same teammates next year. That happened to us last year. We had a great year and I look around and it’s only four of us remaining. I just think it’s embracing and taking advantage of doing the best you can with the group you have.”


Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

LOS ANGELES – After making a near-perfect pass during the early stages of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Al Horford was feeling good about his chances of winning.

But near the end, the final stage – knocking down a 3-pointer – proved to be Horford’s undoing as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid eliminated Horford in the first round after Horford missed three consecutive three-pointers.

“It happens. It was fun,” Horford said.

Embiid, who was eliminated in the next round by Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, said he was nervous before the event.

“I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast,” Embiid told reporters. “I have no idea. But I thought it was fun.”

Although Horford has been a part of all-star weekend four times prior to tonight, this was the first time he participated in the Skills Challenge.

“It’s different. I normally come as a fan,” he said. “This time it was a little different, just getting your mind set and come out here and compete and win. It’s good to be a part of it. Now I can just scratch that off.”

When I asked him about tips or advice from teammates, he said the only thing they told him was he “had to win it.”

“I let them down so I have to make it up in the season,” said Horford, grinning.

Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie wound up winning the event, over Markkanen.