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Isaiah Thomas after settling for minimum salary: ‘I’ve been through way tougher things … real-life stuff’

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 10: Isaiah Thomas #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as the Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks in the second half at American Airlines Center on February 10, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. The Mavericks won 130-123. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

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Isaiah Thomas took a historic tumble – from fifth place in 2017 MVP voting to a minimum contract this year. Between, the Nuggets guard just had his Brinks-truck aspirations upended by a miserable, injury-riddled season with the Cavaliers and Nuggets.

Thomas, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

“I’ve been through way tougher things than just this year of basketball, real-life stuff. This year can’t define me,” Thomas told Yahoo Sports. “This has been tough, but it was only a tough year because I wasn’t healthy. My job is to get as healthy as I possibly can and then show the world what I’m capable of doing.”

I love Thomas’ perspective and determination. It’s so easy to root for him.

But I’d also be concerned if I were Denver. Thomas putting everything that went wrong last season on just his health suggests he hasn’t learned to cope better with injury. There can be a middle ground if he’s again slowed.

In Cleveland, Thomas acted as if he were still producing like star. He took his usual role as a high-volume, ball-dominant guard. But he missed far too many shots and committed too many turnovers. In the locker room and publicly, Thomas spoke like a team leader. But teammates and coaches don’t want to listen someone playing so poorly.

In short, Thomas was destructive.

The worst thing I can say about him was he didn’t know how to handle his tighter limitations. If he’s healthy and productive, those concerns go away.

But if his hip prevents him from flourishing as he’s accustomed, lackluster ability could easily spiral into bigger problems. The Nuggets could always waive him if it gets bad enough, but they’re counting on him as backup point guard.

To be clear: This is not an easy switch to flip. The confidence – maybe even cockiness – that undermines Thomas’ team when he’s hobbled is the same confidence/cockiness that propels him when he’s healthy.

Denver is getting great value with Thomas on a minimum contract. It’s absolutely worth signing him and hoping for the best. But the downside is also real.