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Isiah Thomas Will Always Find A New Situation To Fuck Up

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 07: Former NBA athlete Isiah Thomas and Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia attend Game Four of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals at Footprint Center on May 07, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Nuggets 129-124. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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If there is a more convenient villain in the modern NBA than Isiah Thomas, it is Isiah Thomas a second time. We are entering the end of the first quarter of the current century, and we are still finding new ways and new victims for his reign of distasteful terror. And frankly, as it represents a break from the alleged evils of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons, Scott Foster and Adam Silver's tanning consultant, why the hell not?

Thomas has been found to be a virulent annoyance most recently in Michael Jordan's 10-part hagiography The Last Me, and has been linked to and blamed for the Continental Basketball Association, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, New York Liberty, Florida International University and now, whether Chris Paul is to be believed or not, the Phoenix Suns. Paul gave an interview to The New York Times in the immediate aftermath of his trade from Phoenix to D.C., and he went well out of his way to name Thomas as Suns owner Mat Ishbia's co-conspirator and the driving force behind the trade. Thomas's fingerprints are there to be found and guilt to be applied. He's the TV crime procedural in which the principal suspect is caught before the opening titles.

And like we said, why the hell not? Isiah makes a great Green Goblin—just not a convincing Thanos. Whether he was just a failed coach, mediocre administrator, or, in the case of the Knicks and former executive Anucha Browne Sanders, a creep who was sued for sexual harassment and cost his team $11.6 million, he could make any bad situation worse just by being him. He was and is a classic of the genre.

Paul announcing that his banishment from Phoenix was the work of Ishbia and Thomas brings Zeke back into play after years of us forgetting his true place in the league, even though he looms regularly as a reedy-voiced seagull impersonator on TNT and NBA TV. That he has apparently joined a team with a deeply twitchy history with the women in its employ under former owner Bobby Sarver only makes his role as a pantomime baddie all the more impressive.

In other words, it's hard just to be a disaster for 25 years, but to create them for a quarter-century is a staggering achievement—just as it is a measure of Paul's ability to accurately roll grenades under chairs and let them settle right under the proper seat. Isiah Thomas gets noticed for what he undoes in the same way that Ben Simmons gets noticed for what he doesn't do, and so when he makes a comeback as he has clearly done here—well, it's a bit like the Lakers signing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to a three-year, $96 million deal because he used to be a great player. It's us recognizing Thomas's incandescent status as a shit-stirrer emeritus.

It is therefore comforting to know that while the Suns used to be a disaster because their old owner was an unrepentant yahoo, they are now going to be a disaster because their new owner listens to one. It means we can spend less time thinking about Phoenix as a potential power and more time waiting for Thomas to set fire to a mountain of oily rags and say the black smoke means he's been elected Pope. And here's to Chris Paul, whether he ends up a Wizard, a Clipper or a Kraken, for bringing back Isiah as an oldie and a baddie. As the Marvel Universe has proven time and again, when you've got a quality villain, never let him go.

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