When Kyrie Irving demanded that the Cleveland Cavaliers trade him, it triggered a series of events for Isaiah Thomas that could not have been foreseen. Initially, some praised Cleveland for managing to acquire Thomas in their deal with the Boston Celtics.
While he was in the process of rehabbing a hip injury, Thomas had proven to be a capable scorer and emerged as an MVP candidate. Thomas’ debut with the Cavaliers didn’t come until January of this year.
His time on the court with LeBron James hardly gained any traction before Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers hours before the deadline. Thomas played a total of 15 games with the Cavaliers.
His time in Cleveland overlapped with that of Dwyane Wade, who was jettisoned on the same day Thomas was traded. But in Wade’s case, he was sent to the Miami Heat, essentially his second home.
Wade was sympathetic to how matters unfolded between Thomas and the Cavaliers, via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“It’s tough. First of all, he had an unbelievable year last year. Him being a competitor and a warrior, he made his injury even worse. Instead of putting his stock up there and feeling the injury and saying, ‘I’m done, let me worry about next season so I can get a max deal,’ he kept trying to fight and fight and fight for the city he was playing for. It’s a tough situation, man. One thing I know about him, you don’t become a household name at 5-foot whatever he is, without having grit, without having toughness and knowing you can overcome anything.”
Wade added he’s seen a different version of Thomas since the trade:
“I think the biggest thing is everything happens for a reason, too. I like the way that he’s playing out there. He looks free, has a different bounce in his step, and he will continue to get his confidence back in his body and game. I enjoyed my time being his teammate.”
That free-playing spirit was on full display Thursday night as Thomas torched the Heat for a game-high and season-high 29 points. He did plenty of his damage from behind the arc — knocking down six of 11 attempts — and in the fourth quarter, when Thomas scored 11 points.
Not to be completely outdone, Wade paced Miami with 25 points off the bench, shooting an efficient 11-for-18.
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