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The news that Isaiah Thomas had surgery Thursday on his ailing right hip and is out for the season brings to question where the two-time All-Star will play next year.
The 29-year-old point guard will be an unrestricted free agent after this season ends. Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 8.
Former Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin believes it will be difficult for Thomas to land the type of contract he had in mind when he was leading the Eastern Conference in scoring last season.
It was during that time Thomas uttered the now-infamous, “Better back up the Brinks truck” line when asked about his next contract.
Now, that seems very unlikely.
“No one is going long there [with a deal], in all likelihood,” Griffin told Yahoo Sports. “[The hip] is a very significant factor. His whole game is predicated upon quickness and creating shot separation. If he can’t do that, he is a small non-defender.”
The landing spots for Thomas going forward aren’t many.
Only a few teams will have salary-cap space and not many make sense for Thomas.
Dallas has room, but the Mavericks have Dennis Smith. Philadelphia will also have space, but the 76ers have Markelle Fultz. Atlanta and Chicago also have room, but the Hawks and Bulls are both rebuilding and would have no need for a 5-foot-9 guard coming off hip surgery approaching his 30th birthday.
Still, Griffin sees some positives for Thomas, including backing up rookie Lonzo Ball as the Lakers’ point guard, coming off the bench in 16 of the 17 games he played in Los Angeles this season.
“I was pleased with his willingness to come off the bench in LA,” Griffin said. “[It] will be very important for next season that teams believe he is willing to do whatever it takes to win and isn’t caught up in the semantics of a starting role.
“His willingness to speak up immediately in Cleveland was a terrible fit for the locker room, but not entirely a negative. If he is in a role as veteran leader, as he was in LA, it can be important, positive trait.”