Thomas' attempt to earn an NBA roster spot got off to a great start

By Colin Ward-Henninger

(CBS SPORTS) – It’s hard to believe, but it was less than five years ago that Isaiah Thomas was named to the All-NBA second team as a member of the Boston Celtics. His path since then has been notably rocky, having played in just 87 total games over the past four seasons, including just three last year with the New Orleans Pelicans, largely due to a lingering hip injury that eventually required surgery.

Isaiah Thomas of the Denver Nuggets poses for a portrait during the Denver Nuggets Media Day at the Pepsi Center on Sept. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

Isaiah Thomas of the Denver Nuggets during the Denver Nuggets 2018 Media Day. (credit: Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

Thomas has not given up, however, and appears resolute in his quest to get back to the NBA. He took the next step in his journey on Wednesday night, suiting up for the Grand Rapids Gold — the Denver Nuggets’ affiliate — for his G League debut. Safe to say that Thomas made a favorable first impression.

The 5-foot-9, 32-year-old guard went off for 42 points, eight assists, six rebounds and five 3-pointers in the Gold’s 131-127 loss to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Thomas showed off his vintage arsenal of 3-point shooting, finishing at the rim and facilitating for teammates, and appeared to have solid burst and quickness.

While it was exciting to see Thomas put up similar numbers to his NBA All-Star days, it’s best not to read too much into the performance as it pertains to his potential NBA return. Keep in mind that Indiana Pacers backup center Goga Bitadze — whose NBA career-high is 14 points — put up 38 points, 14 rebounds and five assists for Fort Wayne on Wednesday against Thomas and the Gold.

You can never rule out an NBA return for Thomas, since he’s consistently shown the ability to score and shoot, even in his later years in the league. In his last semi-full season in the NBA, Thomas averaged 12.2 points per game while making 41 percent of his 3-pointers with the Washington Wizards. His defensive deficiencies have become more prevalent as he’s aged, but Thomas could certainly carve out a bench role in the right situation if he can continue to get buckets. Whether he makes it back to the NBA or not, however, it’s fun to see a familiar face having a great night on the court.