It’s gotten so extreme that the Mavericks are signing replacement players for their replacement players.
As COVID-19 continues to be the ultimate Grinch this holiday season, the Mavericks signed veteran guard Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day contract under the health and safety protocols hardship allowance.
The Mavericks added two players to their lengthy list of COVID-19 casualties on Wednesday: Boban Marjanović and recently signed Brandon Knight.
And so, they added Thomas, who joined the team before the heartbreaking 95-94 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday night.
It was the end of what Thomas called a crazy day.
“I was getting some groceries, and Nico (Harrison, the Mavericks’ general manager) had called me,” Thoms said. “The first thing he asked me was, ‘you think you can play tonight?’
“I was like, hell yeah I can play tonight. I was in Seattle. I just got home from LA (Tuesday). It’s been a lot, but I’m built for this. I’m ready for it. I’m thankful for the opportunity. And it was a no-brainer when he asked.”
So Thomas breezed over the Mavericks’ playbook on the flight to Sacramento and was in uniform before the ink was dry on his contract.
“They told me just to be ready,” he said. ” J-Kidd and Nico had told me to just be myself. I’m always ready. I didn’t know if I was going to play a lot or a little bit. They kept it simple for me.”
Thomas was in the game in the first quarter, quickly scored on a midrange jumper and finished with six points and four assists in 13 minutes.
Said coach Jason Kidd: “I thought he did great. To come from home to help put us in position to win, I thought he was really good.”
It continued a strange couple of weeks. Thomas played most recently with the Los Angeles Lakers before Christmas as they went through COVID-19 issues. He averaged 9.3 points in four games with the Lakers.
“He’s a competitor, he loves the game,” coach Jason Kidd said before Wednesday’s game. “He believes and that’s where it all starts – he believes he belongs in this league. And so the Mavs are going to give him that opportunity to showcase what he can do. And that’s going to start tonight. He won’t have time to (get acclimated). He’s going to be thrown right in there. And we believe he can help us.”
While Thomas would have jumped at the chance to go anywhere, the fact that the Mavericks were in Sacramento made him a natural. Since they were losing another ballhandler in Knight, they needed help immediately.
“Those Seattle guys can hoop, no matter where it’s at,” Kidd said. “If he’s asked to play at the highest level, he’ll get on a plane and fly anywhere to play. That’s how much he loves the game. He wants to get back in the league so this is a great opportunity for him.”
The 5-9 Thomas is in his 11th season and has career averages of 18 points and 4.9 assists in 532 games with eight teams. He started his career in Sacramento, where he joined the Mavericks.
Thomas was the last pick of the second round in 2011 (60th overall). He was a two-time all-star in 2016 and ’17 when he was with Boston.
Thomas has a lot of fans for being a 5-9 player who reached unexpected heights during his prime. He had a serious hip injury in the 2017 playoffs, which changed his career path significantly. He was fifth in MVP voting that season after averaging more than 28 points for the Celtics.
“I’m a big fan,” Sacramento interim coach Alvin Gentry said. “Everybody here is well aware of what he’s done. He was the 60th pick in the draft and has had almost a hall of fame career, in my opinion.
“Obviously, the injuries have derailed him. But if you know IT, there’s no way you can’t pull for him to be able to get back in the league and be able to do some things.”
The same could be said for Knight, who the Mavericks learned Wednesday morning would be placed in the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
Kidd said it was the kind of news that punches you in the gut.
“He was doing everything right,” Kidd said. “He wasn’t going out, he was trying to do the right things. You try to tell guys to stay in and sanitize your hands and try to do all the right things.
“This morning, that’s a blow. That just sucks for someone who was fighting to get back in the league and he was doing everything right, had a great game (Monday at Portland). He was crushed. I was crushed. We were all crushed.”
It was another reminder of the new normal, as if anybody needed it.
“No one’s prepared for this,” Kidd said. “We lost two players this morning. So you got to find who’s available and who’s the closest. And IT being in Seattle was the closest and someone we thought could help us.”
Waiting for help: Kidd said he couldn’t accurately predict when players will return to the team, but that the team is ready to accommodate everybody when they are released out of protocols by the NBA.
“They have COVID, but they’re going through the protocols and being tested,” Kidd said. “When the league lets them out, they’ll join the team on this road trip. Or if their timetable (is longer) join us at home. So they’re doing good.”
“They” would be Luka Dončić, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke and JaQuori McLaughlin, all of whom have been in the protocol program and were joined Wednesday by Marjanović and Knight.
Knight’s 10-day deal will expire before he gets out of the protocols, in all likelihood.
Reggie Bullock, by the way, was cleared to return to the team on Wednesday but was not activated for the Kings’ game. The Mavericks have a rematch with Sacramento on Friday.
Theo Pinson, the first player the Mavericks signed via the hardship allowance, will have his 10-day deal run out after Wednesday’s game if he is not signed to a second 10-day.
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