You knew he would come back. You just didn't know when. Or where. Or in which basketball league.
My friend and colleague, Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com, reports that the Clippers have had discussions with disgraced Knicks executive Isiah Thomas about an unspecified role in their front office . So this is what it's come to for Isiah. The Clippers. I guess the Fort Wayne Mad Ants aren't hiring.
Thomas has gradually returned to the public eye in the months since a bizarre incident at his Westchester County, N.Y., home in which he apparently was hospitalized following an overdose of sleeping pills. To this day, it's not clear exactly what transpired. The incident has become yet another strand of the complicated fabric that is Thomas' basketball life.
He's still on the Knicks' payroll, having been relieved of his duties as coach and team president last spring and taking on an ill-defined role as a scout and consultant to Knicks president Donnie Walsh. On several occasions this season, Walsh has been asked what Thomas has been doing to earn his paycheck, and Walsh has seemed unsure how to answer. He'd say things such as, he talks to Isiah all the time but then couldn't remember the last time he spoke with him. He'd say Isiah was scouting players, but couldn't name one player he'd discussed with him.
Then Thomas surfaced in several college arenas where he was scouting players, and told the Associated Press earlier this month while taping a TV appearances with his former college coach, Bob Knight, that he's been "very active" in his role with the Knicks and was doing OK since the October incident at his home. Thomas has endured some tough times since then, with the death of Pistons owner William Davidson and news that his former coach and father figure, Chuck Daly, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Sheridan's story points out that the talks between Thomas and the Clippers have been "informal yet substantive," and makes it clear that no job has been offered. It's not even clear what the job would be. GM? Scout? Assistant GM? Coach? So let's not jump ahead of ourselves.
OK, let's. If the Clippers, or any team for that matter, were to hire Isiah for the right job, it wouldn't be as disastrous as some people would suggest. For all his faults -- running his mouth about things that aren't his business, making enemies, inciting brawls by telling Carmelo Anthony not to go into the paint, signing Jerome James -- Thomas has been known throughout his career for his ability to evaluate talent. He made some miserable moves as the Knicks' president, but look at the pieces that the new regime finds worth salvaging for the future. Wilson Chandler, Nate Robinson, and David Lee -- all drafted by Isiah. Scouting college players and running a draft are two things Isiah can do, and do well.
Clearly, Mike Dunleavy is in trouble in Clipperland and will not retain both the coach and GM titles. In a strange way, perhaps Thomas is the one who can throw Dunleavy a lifeline that they both could use.
UPDATE: Have no fear, Clippers fans. (Are there Clippers fans?) A person with knowledge of the discussions between Thomas and the Clippers told CBSSports.com Thursday that the flirtation amounts to Thomas putting out feelers and said there is "zero Clipper interest."