Thomas: Kawhi Did "The Right Thing, Learned From My Story"

Isaiah Thomas believes Kawhi Leonard made the right choice in not returning from injury this past season

Tiki and Tierney
August 02, 2018 - 4:39 pm

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When Isaiah Thomas was traded from Boston to Cleveland last August, many NBA analysts felt the Cavs had enough talent to not only reach the NBA Finals, but also challenge the Golden State Warriors for a championship. As it turned out, however, Thomas, who was recovering from a hip injury, started just 14 games for Cleveland before being traded to the Lakers.

Thomas dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Thursday to reflect on his Cleveland experience, among other topics. Brandon Tierney asked Thomas if his time with the Cavs was dark.

“Dark is going through what I went through with my family. That’s dark,” Thomas said on Tiki and Tierney, referring to the passing of his sister in April 2017. “Anything that has to do with basketball or anything other than that is definitely not dark. It just didn’t fit for whatever reason. But at the same time, we didn’t give it enough time to fit. I only played 13 or 14 games coming off seven months of sitting out to a whole new situation, a whole new team, organization – players I’ve never played with.”

Thomas shot just 36.1 percent from the floor and averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists in 27.1 minutes per game for Cleveland. He was one of six Cavs traded in February as Cleveland tried in vain to overhaul its roster to compete with the Warriors.

“You give anybody 14 games and we go 7-7, you can’t say it worked or it didn’t work,” Thomas said. “People were just expecting greatness from the jump, and that’s what comes with being on a team with arguably the best player in the world. They expect us to go undefeated, and it just didn't work as fast as people wanted it to. If they didn’t make the trade, I think that team was built better for the playoffs than the team that they had. But you can’t control those things. You just go about your day.”

Thomas averaged 15.6 points and 5.0 assists in 17 games with the Lakers. He signed a one-year, $2.2 million deal with Denver in July.

Thomas, 29, admits he returned from his hip injury sooner than he would have liked – and may have cost himself millions of dollars in the process.

“If I could do it all over again, I wish I would have sat out a little longer for sure,” Thomas said. “But we could always play the what-if game.”

Still, Thomas believes that Kawhi Leonard was smart to sit out and not rush back from a quad injury.

“Kawhi Leonard, what he did is the right thing to do,” Thomas said. “He learned from my story. Everybody can hate or do whatever they say about Kawhi Leonard, but at the end of the day, he’s looking after himself. These teams, all they’re going to do is look out for themselves. When a player does it, everybody’s tripping out. It is what it is. At the same time, I’m still blessed to be in the situation I’m in. I’m blessed to be in the NBA. Once I do get that opportunity again, they won’t be able to deny it after that.”

Thomas was also asked about Lonzo Ball. He didn’t play a lot with last year’s No. 2 pick, but Ball certainly left an impression.

“Lonzo is a great kid,” Thomas said. “I don’t think they’re going to be able to fix his jump shot, but they can work with him and get it better than how it is right now. He’s a talented, talented young player that’s going to be special in this league because he has the tools to be special.”

Thomas, by the way, will host the fifth annual Zeke-End basketball tournament Aug. 3-5 in Tacoma, Washington. Thomas is not playing in the tournament, but several other NBA players are, including Lance Stephenson, Terry Rozier, Terrence Ross, and Derrick Rose. All proceeds from the tournament will go to the Isaiah Thomas Family Giving Fund.