Former All-NBA guard Isaiah Thomas is attempting an NBA comeback with the New Orleans Pelicans, who recently signed him to a 10-day contract on the heels of an impressive performance for Team USA in February's FIBA AmeriCup. Most known for his memorable run with the Boston Celtics, Thomas last played in the NBA for the Washington Wizards in February of 2020, but said that a recent hip procedure has left him "pain free" for the first time in years.
He should get a shot at playing time with the Pelicans, who recently traded JJ Redick and are currently without guard Lonzo Ball due to a hip flexor injury. The odds are against the 32-year-old Thomas securing a long-term deal in the NBA given his age and defensive deficiencies, so he's summoned the power of Mamba Mentality for his time in New Orleans.
The Pelicans announced on Saturday that Thomas will wear No. 24 with the team, and Thomas confirmed that the choice was in honor of the late, great Kobe Bryant.
Thomas, who has never before worn No. 24 in his NBA career, played 17 games with the Lakers during the 2017-18 season, after Bryant had retired. Following Bryant's death in January of 2020, Thomas discussed his admiration for the Lakers legend, and how Bryant helped him after the death of his sister and, later, career-threatening injuries.
"He's meant everything to me," Thomas said, via The Washington Post. "I started basketball because of Kobe Bryant. ... I mean, he's the greatest of all time in life and in basketball. That's how much I looked up to him."
A 2016-17 All-NBA selection and two-time All-Star, Thomas will be eligible to make his Pelicans debut on Sunday against the Houston Rockets.