If there's a coach in the NBA that understands what Isaiah Thomas brings to a basketball team, it's Nuggets head coach Mike Malone.
Thomas played for Malone in Sacramento during the 2013-14 season and then again in Denver last season.
He only appeared in 12 games for the Nuggets in their run to the Western Conference semifinals and a top-2 seed in the league's more brutal conference, but he clearly added something to that team Malone wishes they still had.
"It was my second time coaching Isaiah and what I think people probably don't realize is we miss I.T.," Malone told reporters before Tuesday's game. "His personality, his voice, his leadership, his presence I thought was instrumental on our team last year."
Hip surgery kept Thomas out for much of the regular season, and when he came back healthy, Monte Morris had solidified himself as Jamal Murray's backup. Malone eventually had to take Thomas out of the rotation to maximize his second unit, but the two-time All-Star didn't let that keep him from helping the team.
"He handled himself with unbelievable maturity and professionalism and all our young players really benefited from him being around," Malone said. "[We] definitely miss having him and more importantly, I'm happy that he's healthy and back playing and playing at a high level."
Thomas may not be the same player he was in Boston, but the consistent message you hear from his former coaches is how good a leader and teammate he is. For a young and developing team like the Wizards, that's invaluable to have in your locker room.
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