Isaiah Thomas isn’t only a student of basketball. He’s also a teacher of life in the NBA.
The Denver Nuggets point guard said Thursday during his appearance on CBS’ “Tiki and Teirney” he doesn’t fault Toronto Raptors small forward Kawhi Leonard for sitting out most of last season while he was recovering from a quadriceps injury. Thomas believes his own experience with injury and recovery teaches Leonard and other NBA players about the pitfalls of playing through pain.
“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.”
Leonard missed all but nine regular season and playoff games in 2017-18 while he was with San Antonio. The diagnosis and treatment of his quad injury reportedly exposed a rift between him and the Spurs that eventually led to his departure to the Raptors this summer in a blockbuster trade.
Thomas joined the Nuggets last month as a free agent after signing a one-year contract, which will pay him the veteran minimum. The terms of his deal are a far cry from the max contract he was seeking during his standout 2016-17 season with the Boston Celtics.
Two trades and three teams later, Thomas now represents a cautionary tale in some NBA circles.