Welcome reunion: Suns sign Isaiah Thomas to 10-day contract as playoffs draw closer

Isaiah Thomas officially joins the Phoenix Suns on a 10-day contract, marking his return to the NBA after nearly two seasons. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Two-time All-Star and 2017 All-NBA Second Team point guard Isaiah Thomas officially signed a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns Wednesday, marking the first time Thomas has been on an NBA roster since the 2021-22 season.

Thomas played for the Suns during the 2014-15 season before being traded to Boston at the trade deadline, and now a decade later he reunites with an organization that is hoping his addition will help Phoenix make the playoffs.

“Ten years went by so fast, it doesn’t even look like the same city,” Thomas said Wednesday morning, just hours before he was expected to be available for the Suns game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Footprint Center.

Thomas, 35, averaged 8.4 points per game while shooting 40% from the field in 2021-22, his most recent NBA season, while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Charlotte Hornets respectively, all on separate 10-day contracts. Most recently, in March, Thomas joined the Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA G-League where he notched an impressive 32.5 points and 5.3 assists per game, along with shooting 44% from the 3-point line on 14 attempts per game, including a 34-point performance Saturday.

“I want to play a few more years in the league so hopefully this is a setup for that,” Thomas said. “Whatever the opportunity is, I’m ready to make an impact each and every day, whether I play or not. It’s bigger than putting the ball in the basket. I’m able to lead. Lead by example, lead by my experiences and just help in any way possible.”

Multiple reports stated that Thomas would make his debut Wednesday night against the 76ers, but Suns coach Frank Vogel seemed to make it clear that Thomas’ minutes will come in the case of an emergency.

“I don’t know how much he’ll play for us, he’s really here from a depth standpoint … we just needed somebody that we trusted that could give us some minutes if we encounter some injuries during this stretch while he’s going to be here,” Vogel said.

The 5-foot-9 guard has always been overlooked; he was the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft out of the University of Washington despite averaging 16.4 points per game over three seasons and crafting some memorable moments during March Madness. After playing with Sacramento for three seasons, Thomas was traded to Phoenix in 2014 and then emerged as one of the top players in the league in the 2016-17 season with the Celtics when he averaged 28.9 points per game and finished fifth in MVP voting.

Since then, he has dealt with an unfortunate string of injuries that have put a wrench in his career, and the Suns make it the eighth team he has played with since his tenure in Boston.

Despite his injuries and lack of height in a league looking for size, his dedication and work ethic have kept him in the NBA and admired by his peers. Before Thomas was the final pick in the draft, he participated in a pre-draft documentary entitled “Road to the NBA – The Isaiah Thomas story,” and Hall-Of-Famer Kevin Garnett believes another documentary about Thomas should be made.

“I’m a huge IT fan,” said Suns guard Bradley Beal, who played with Thomas in Washington in 2019. “I’ve gotten a chance to see him every single day put the work in and the challenges that he went through as a player overcoming some injuries … to be able to come back now is very unheard of but I commend him.

“He’s always going to be a hooper. There’s nothing that can stop him or set him back from accomplishing his goals or dreams and he’s one that lives it out, so he’s a prime example to kids and to a lot of people,” Beal said. ”No matter if people tell you no, no matter if people shut you down, he’s heard it all, and to see him back … I love it.”

Vogel coached Thomas in Los Angeles for four games in 2021 and raved about his locker room presence despite his brief stint.

“He’s a guy that everybody loves,” Vogel said. “He’s a very well-liked, respected guy in this league and NBA player fraternity, and we’ll see where his game is at.”

On the court, Thomas provides steady playmaking and shotmaking, and Beal believes their game styles complement each other well.

“He’ll definitely help me out a lot with running the point and giving me some different viewpoints and ways I can attack that I may have not seen before,” Beal said. “When we plug him in he’s going to be dynamic for us …we need that shooting ability because we need more threes.”

If the playoffs started now, Phoenix would be in the Play-In tournament, sitting at eighth in the Western Conference at 39-29 with 14 games left in the regular season, half a game behind Sacramento for the sixth, and final playoff spot. Finishing in the top six is the regular season goal for Vogel and the players.

“All of us want to get into the top six…we are confident if we get into a Play-In game that we will win, but there’s too many variables…we want to stay away from those types of situations,” Vogel said.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Asher Hyre expects to graduate in August 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Hyre has interned at Position Sports in Phoenix as a marketing coordinator.