The Nuggets must do the fitting factor and lower level guard Isaiah Thomas, earlier than a proud athlete’s tumble from legit MVP candidate to being a tragic prop on the finish of Denver’s bench turns into any extra painfully awkward to observe.
Sure, it is a bummer deal. The Nuggets had been hoping for a miracle, backed with a $2 million funding, within the perception Thomas might get better from a severe hip damage that wrecked his once-brilliant profession.
However all of the shine in his recreation is gone, Denver coach Michael Malone has no place for Thomas within the taking part in rotation and $2 million isn’t almost sufficient cash to justify conserving him round as a reluctant staff mascot. That is embarrassing for all involved.
The Nuggets have decreased Thomas to a trivia query, a little bit of tacky, leisure to maintain the group distracted throughout a break from the motion. With Denver beating Minnesota on the night time I.T. was instructed to sit on the top of the bench, a child was plucked from the stands throughout a timeout to play a “Who am I?” contest. Clues had been revealed, Jeopardy-style, on the jumbo scoreboard display suspended over midcourt.
The hints started with a reminder of what level guard was chosen with the ultimate decide of the 2011 NBA draft and ended with the names of I.T.’s three kids. Because the trivia contestant scanned his mind within the hope of profitable a prize, Thomas sat on the bench and craned his neck at his private historical past, listed in large, block letters on the scoreboard.
For these of you conserving rating at house, the child received. And that trivia reply was near getting within the recreation as Thomas acquired.
Though he stands solely 5 toes, 9 inches tall, Thomas is just too large for the Nuggets to cover in plain sight, as a result of on a nationwide stage, the broken-down level guard stays an even bigger model identify than any of his teammates, together with rising star Nikola Jokic.
However after grading I.T.’s efficiency in solely 9 video games since his return from damage, the Nuggets have determined the minuses of Thomas outweigh the plusses, the identical unhappy conclusion reached by the Cavaliers and Lakers throughout the previous 14 months.
Now there’s no must trip the stationary bike close to the courtroom to heat up, as has been I.T.’s customized as a result of he’s banished to the bench’s final seat. Resigned to his destiny, Thomas even eliminated his trademark headband as he watched Denver rout Minnesota.
Sure, this stinks. All of us love a candy comeback story. All that’s left for Thomas, nonetheless, is to placed on a great face and be a $2 million cheerleader.
It’s a charade that might be silly to keep up for the lengthy haul, particularly if the Nuggets advance deep within the playoffs, dragging round I.T. like 185 kilos of extra baggage, full of scrapbooks of fading pictures snapped earlier than Thomas acquired harm, just like the time he scored 53 factors to guide Boston to victory towards Washington throughout the 2017 playoffs.
Whereas the purpose guard bobs his head to the beat of songs spun by DJ Bedz within the Pepsi Middle, Thomas has gone mute with the media, declining interviews, as a result of he doesn’t wish to reveal what’s on his troubled thoughts.
Wouldn’t it be insensitive to counsel that if I.T. was robust sufficient to common 28.9 factors per recreation for the Celtics two years in the past, he needs to be skilled sufficient now to face the music and reply a number of questions throughout the robust instances?
However I get it. At this level, the Ebook of Isaiah makes for unhappy studying. And Thomas desires to keep away from studying something that makes him extra depressing.
I do know that is true. How? Though I.T. has misplaced his go off the dribble and is a legal responsibility on protection, he nonetheless has sufficient abilities to dam me, a sluggish previous scribe.
After this headline appeared final week in The Put up: “Is it time the Nuggets finish the Isaiah Thomas experiment?” with my identify connected, I used to be blocked from Thomas’ Twitter account, not worthy of being amongst his followers.
That is no large deal, apart from to disclose how a lot I.T. sincerely cares in regards to the sorry present state of his basketball affairs.
Thomas slipped out of the locker room Thursday morning, in energetic avoidance of the TV cameras’ glare, making an attempt to be as invisible because the ghost of the elite participant whose physique betrayed him.
Hey, didn’t you was I.T., the NBA’s feisty little lion king?
Now, as Thomas headed for the exit on recreation day, he was simply an athlete on the fallacious facet of age 30, hurting each bodily and emotionally, hiding his ache below a black hoodie, which had these phrases emblazoned on one sleeve: Respect the sport.
Thomas has earned an excessive amount of respect on the courtroom to be a foolish $2 million prop on the top of Denver’s bench.
Shake his hand, provide honest thanks for making an attempt to beat the percentages and lower him.
Then let Thomas stroll away with what’s left of his dignity.