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Isaiah Thomas and his fall from grace

Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics drives past John Wall of the Washington Wizards. (Image: Keith Allison CC BY-SA 2.0)
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9th July, 2018
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The 60th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Isaiah Thomas, may have had the quickest fall from grace in NBA history.

The five-foot nine-inches guard had an historic statistical season, averaging 29 points per game, the second-most in the decorated history of the Boston Celtics. This is one fewer point than all-time great Larry Bird.

Leading the Celtics to the best record in the east for the 2016-17 season, Thomas finished fifth in most valuable player voting, a testament to the incredible season he had created.

Being traded for the second time in his career left Thomas playing with a constant chip on his shoulder. Feeling unwanted, his two seasons in Boston left a mark on his heart as well as the city.

Being one of the most adored players in the league, the fans of Boston had a new king in town. The point guard out of Washington State University was the focal point of a contagious Celtics atmosphere. Two incredible years as a Celtic had Thomas go on the record to say he wanted to be a Celtic for the rest of his career.

If that statement didn’t emphasise his love for the city enough, his actions in the 2017 playoffs certainly concreted it. Tragically Thomas’s sister passed away in a car crash, leaving Thomas and his family devastated. However, through all this pain he decided to play on, and he turned up for Game 1 of the play-offs.

What hurt Thomas the following season was during Round 2 of the 2017 play-offs against the Washington Wizards. We saw him play through a hip injury to post 52 points. Thomas played until he physically couldn’t anymore, which took him to Game 2 of the eastern conference finals against defending champions the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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The following summer involved a blockbuster trade between the recent eastern conference finalists in which Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving was shipped up to Boston for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and next year’s Brooklyn Nets pick.

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This was the story of the off-season as Thomas had felt betrayed by Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, who pulled the trigger. In hindsight this move completely jeopardised Thomas’s upcoming free agency as he was eligible for a max contract.

After being sent to the Cavs to play alongside LeBron James, Thomas did not play until January due to an injury that he suffered last season, which he made worse by playing through the play-offs.

It was evident immediately that he did not fit into the Cavaliers system, or with LeBron James for that matter. Being a player that needs the ball to strive, that did not go well with the Cavaliers offensive system. Being five-foot nine-inches also makes him a liability on the defensive end, and the Cavaliers were already one of the worst defensive teams.

Throughout 2017-18 he was perceived as an annoyance to a team who whined about his current organisation and teammates. The way the fans now see Thomas completely juxtaposes their perception of him in 2016-17.

From the king of the fourth quarter in Boston to an annoyance for the Cavaliers, Thomas has had the quickest fall from grace in memory.

After Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman put two with two and came to the conclusion Thomas and the Cavaliers weren’t meant to be, Thomas was sent to to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Larry Nance Jr and Jordan Clarkson. The trade was made the day of the deadline.

Sent to the Lakers, Thomas was forced to be the sixth man of the team and could not seem to get anything going. After playing a few games, Thomas ended up deciding to sit out the rest of the regular season to undergo another hip surgery.

From a 30-points-per-game player to a sixth man who is still looking for a team to play for in the 2018-19 season – life comes at you fast.

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