Isaiah Thomas was always sure another call would come for him to get back to the NBA. Despite having been out the league for 14 months, Thomas never doubted in himself.
So when the New Orleans Pelicans called an offered a chance to get back, even on a 10-day contract, Thomas leapt at the opportunity.
“I was always going to get back no matter what,” Thomas told reporters on Tuesday morning. “I think with me and the mindset, if you ever have doubt, you shouldn’t be doing anything that you’re doing.
“Obviously I’m human and some days it was hard to get up than others and continue to work without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But I have the utmost faith and the utmost confidence in myself. Things have never been easy for me, why would they start now?”
Thomas said his time away from basketball allowed him to focus on the nagging hip injury that took him from being an All-NBA second team selection and fifth in MVP voting in 2016-17 to playing just 84 games combined over the next three seasons while never regaining that form.
Thomas underwent a hip resurfacing procedure last May to help alleviate pain in his hip and he’s starting to feel like his old self now.
“I’m 102%. I’m more than good,” Thomas said. “This is the best I ever felt since before I got injured. It’s not even a question no more. Every day I wake up with a smile on my face because honestly I never thought I would feel this good again and feel back to normal. Physically I’m ready. Mentally I’m ready. And I’m just happy to really be here.”
While he was away from the NBA, Thomas was able to play for Team USA for two games in a FIBA qualifying event in February, which he feels helped paved the way for him to get back to the league.
“The opportunity to play for team USA was everything. Obviously wearing USA on your chest, but bigger picture, it was for everyone to see me moving and being myself again,” Thomas said.
“I accomplished what I set forth going out there to do. Four or five teams were calling after that very interested. Luckily New Orleans pulled the trigger and I’m here. USA, those games were helpful for me and it gave me an opportunity to show I could still play at a high level and moving like myself and that everything is fine again.”
Thomas could be called on to play major minutes for the Pelicans very soon because of New Orleans’ injury situation.
The Pelicans have starting guards Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball available for Tuesday night’s game but could be missing three key guards off the bench after that. Josh Hart (torn UCL in his right thumb) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (left high ankle sprain) have already been ruled out and rookie Kira Lewis is doubtful with a right calf strain.
That’s in addition to having starting forwards Zion Williamson (right thumb sprain) and Brandon Ingram (right first MTP irritation) listed as questionable. Williamson and Ingram have missed the past three games.
“It sucks for those guys to go down, but injuries are a part of the game. It’s always next man up mentally,” Thomas said. “I’m in a situation where if they do give me some minutes, I’ll take full advantage of it, and I’ll be impactful on and off the floor.”