Isaiah Thomas is back.
The guard made his debut with the Denver Nuggets in Wednesday night’s game against the Kings, entering with 3:12 left in the first quarter. He hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in 13 minutes in Denver’s 120-118 victory over Sacramento.
The Denver crowd gave him a hearty welcome, something his coach expected would happen.
“I’ll be thrilled to see him on the court and get the ovation that I know he is going to get,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before the game.
Thomas, who hadn’t played in an NBA game in nearly 11 months, was listed as questionable but felt good about his chances to play.
“I’m just blessed to be able to be in this position, to get back on the floor and be out there with my teammates,” Thomas said after the team’s morning shootaround.
The return gave him an opportunity to play against the team that drafted him. Thomas was selected by the Kings with the final pick of the 2011 draft, but he hasn’t let being the last man taken deter his path.
“I’ve got a goal I want to reach. I want to be one of the best players to ever play the game, so there’s no quit in me,” he said. “This is just a part of my story.”
Thomas last played as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 15 points in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on March 22, 2018. He underwent a procedure on his right hip shortly after.
He injured his hip during the Eastern Conference finals in 2017. The Boston Celtics guard, who finished fifth in NBA MVP voting that season, was hurt in Game 2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers and missed the rest of the series, which was won by Cleveland.
Thomas was traded to the Cavaliers during the offseason and didn’t play until their 37th game. He appeared in 15 contests for Cleveland before being dealt to the Lakers. He averaged 15.6 points in 17 games for Los Angeles before being shut down due to the injury.
Now, after what’s been his longest period away from basketball, he’s back on the court but knows it’s going to take time to be at his best again.
“I’m going to be patient with my body. I’m going to be patient with my game,” Thomas said. “It took me years to get to an MVP level, and I know it’s going to take me a while to get back to that level.”
He has no doubts he can do it.
“I’m not out to prove to anybody what I can do. The world knows what I bring to the table,” he said. “I just have to prove that I’m healthy because, when I’m healthy, I’m one of the best players in the world.”