The End of IT?
When Isaiah Thomas dreams, I wonder if he dreams about Ocean's 11.
Because when I watch Ocean's 11, every time Brad Pitt's Rusty tells Andy Garcia's Terry Benedict 'In this town, luck can change that quickly,' I always think of Isaiah Thomas. Not abstractly, mind you, but when word came down this week that the Nuggets were dropping him from the rotation, I couldn't help but think about how things had changed for the diminutive dynamo.
Not even two full seasons ago, Thomas was the toast of Boston. He was averaging 28.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists for the top seed in the East. The "King in the Fourth" was one of two guards named to the All-NBA 2nd Team. Are you processing this? 667 days ago, Isaiah Thomas was one of the best four guards in the league, and now he's waving a towel on the bench. The king is dead, long live the king.
I wanted to give Thomas a few games before I evaluated his contributions to the Nuggets' cause, but I certainly didn't think I'd be writing his eulogy. As it is, he's just not a winning piece of the Nuggets' puzzle. Denver was a mere 5-4 in the nine games he played for the team, and the Nuggets were outscored when he was on the court in six of those nine games -- Denver was winning in spite of Thomas, not because of him.
He averaged 8.6 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game -- his worst statistical season ever -- and perhaps more problematic, was taking minutes from sophomore sensation Monte Morris, who has outplayed Thomas by every metric this season. When the Nuggets signed Thomas, they certainly did so expecting him to fill a hole in their guard rotation at back-up point guard, but Morris -- who remember had 25 TOTAL minutes in his NBA career entering the season -- ended up getting a lot of playing time as Denver's injuries piled up, and turned out to be a real NBA player.
In grammar, a 'double negative' equals a positive; in basketball, the same is certainly not true. The vicious one-two punch of hurting the team while taking minutes from an up-and-coming young player was just unsustainable, especially as the Nuggets prep for a hopefully-deep playoff run. Denver has held the 2-seed in the West almost all season without Thomas. Whether the Nuggets were being overcautious with Thomas or the emergence of Morris lessened the urgency, he came back too late to be properly integrated into the team.
At the very least, Thomas has been a model teammate, by all accounts. This was not the case in Cleveland, when in his first attempt to return from his hip injury, he ruined team chemistry and had to be shipped out of town. If he has any hope of remaining in the Association, he can't be a shell of his former self AND a malcontent -- neither is ideal, and only one is acceptable at a time.
You'd have to be a heartless sonofagun to wish this upon a player who defied the odds to make it to the NBA, let alone star in it. For now, though, it appears that outside of garbage time, the book has closed on Isaiah Thomas' season in Denver. One can only hope the last chapter of his career is not yet in it.