Isaiah Thomas needed to go shopping.
The 32-year-old veteran goalie returned home to Seattle on Tuesday after signing a 10-day contract with the Lakers. So, on Wednesday morning, he went to his local Fred Meyer grocery store to restock his food.
It was there that he got a call from Nico Harrison and one of the craziest days of one of the NBA’s most torturous careers began in earnest.
Thomas signed his COVID-19 hardship contract with the Mavericks hours before the team’s 95-94 loss to the Kings, and the Mavericks hoped – at the time – that the spirit and will that ‘he showed during his first 13 minutes with the franchise would boost a team entering their third week of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Mavericks said Thursday afternoon that Thomas joined seven other Mavericks players, including Luka Doncic, in the NBA health and safety protocol.
Almost as quickly as Thomas signed with his ninth NBA team, he entered solitary confinement at his Sacramento hotel, and the shocked Mavericks need another replacement.
“Even if you do everything you can, you might still catch it or whatever,” said goaltender Jalen Brunson. “I mean, I don’t know. These whole two weeks have been a whirlwind, so we have to get out of it one way or another.
When Thomas answered Harrison’s call in the middle of a shopping trip, the new Mavericks general manager had a pressing question after Boban Marjanovic and Brandon Knight joined Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke and Ja’Quori McLaughlin on the COVID-19 list.
“Do you think you can play tonight?” Harrison asked.
“Hell yeah,” Thomas replied. “I can play tonight.”
Over the next few hours, Thomas hopped on a plane in Seattle, landed 90 minutes later in Sacramento, arrived at Golden 1 Arena – the same place he played his first three NBA seasons after the Kings had it. selected with the last draft pick of 2011. – and donned his ninth different NBA uniform.
Thomas had six points and four assists in 13 minutes on the bench, shooting 3 of 8 from the field as one of two COVID-19 substitutes to see time in Kidd’s shortened rotation.
At times Thomas seemed to spark some of the Mavericks’ success.
He hit his first basket moments after receiving a standing ovation from Sacramento fans. And then he then made a layup and assisted Dwight Powell with a long transition lob on back-to-back possessions to tie the game at 43 and – at least for a moment – stifle the Kings’ push in the second quarter.
Thomas also joined Frank Ntilikina, Josh Green, Sterling Brown and Moses Brown in the motley squad that helped anchor the third-quarter push in which the Mavericks erased a 13-point deficit and positioned for what would have was their first clutch time victory in nine tries.
But Thomas could only watch from the bench as Kristaps Porzingis couldn’t generate a clean post-up look to cushion his 94-92 lead in his last offensive possession, leaving the possibility to Sacramento reserve center Chimezie Metu. to win the match. 3 pointers at the other end.
“What we have to do is take this loss, take this feeling, this feeling that sucks,” Porzingis said. “Take it and use it as fuel for the next game.”
Thomas received the playbook from Dallas while on the plane to Sacramento, and he already knew a member of Kidd’s coaching staff, assistant Greg St. Jean, from the straddle in Sacramento.
But just as he had done in the later years of his career, Thomas embraced the uncertainty.
He played in four of his five games as a COVID-19 substitute with the Lakers and scored 19 points on his Dec. 17 debut. But Thomas only shot 12 of 39 from the field (30.8%) and the Lakers did not hold him after his 10-day contract expired.
Thomas has played seven relays for six different NBA teams in the three-plus years since injuring his hip in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, the year he led Boston at the No.1 seed, finished fifth in the MVP vote and appeared on track for historic greatness for a double All-Star selected No.60 overall a few years earlier.
“I don’t know how many NBA players can honestly say they’ve been in every situation,” said Thomas, “if he’s a franchise player, if he’s a sixth man role, if he’s a role player off the bench or a guy who doesn’t even play.
Thomas hoped to impart “some wisdom, just from experience” by playing with the young core of the Mavericks, which includes the son of one of his mentors.
Thomas met Rick Brunson as a young teenager at an NBA college summer camp, and they’ve formed a relationship that has included counseling and friendship over the past decade and more.
After Wednesday’s loss, Rick’s son Jalen Brunson approached Thomas in the locker room and told him his dad wanted him to be successful with Dallas – not just because a positive production could help him. her son’s Mavericks team to overcome their COVID-19 chaos.
“It’s not easy at all, no matter what profession you work in, to get on a plane and go pretty much straight to work,” Brunson said. “He’s one of those players who wherever he goes will get a lot of love just because of how hard he plays and his dedication to basketball.”
Less than a day after Brunson’s appreciation, Thomas himself became a member of the Mavericks roster, with the virus disrupting his latest comeback offer.