Isaiah Thomas does not plan to have surgery, for now.
After meetings with doctors across the country over the past week, Thomas has appeared to get a consensus diagnosis that for now, he can prepare for next season without a major procedure to repair his torn labrum in his right hip.
“It’s not the number one option right now, but it could be once the swelling goes down," Thomas said at his Celtics exit meeting Friday. "They want to let it die down a little bit then take another MRI once everything is down and looks back to normal. We'll go from there.
“Hopefully I don't have to have surgery, but I know that is an option.”
Thomas spoke to the media for the first time since his season ended last week, when he re-aggravated the labrum tear when accidentally stepping on Kevin Love’s foot in Game 2 of the Boston Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This was something Thomas had been dealing with for much of the season, directly tracing the injury back to a game at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves in March that caused him to miss . He then re-aggravated the injury in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Wizards, a game the Celtics lost on a John Wall buzzer beating three.
"Since I fell down in March, I think that's what aggravated it," he said. "And then I just continued to play on it, continued to try to do as much treatment as possible. And then it just -- it gave out. We knew that would happen at some point. They knew I wasn't going to sit out until I couldn't move no more and that's what happened."
It gave out because of a unique deformity in the bones in his hip socket.
“My hip’s been a little different my whole life. Like, I have an extra bone or something,” Thomas said. “Doctor talk, I don’t understand it.”
The doctors explained to him he suffers from a condition called Femoroacetabular Impingement, or FAI for short. As Thomas explained, this condition causes an extra bone to grow along the hip joint and cause an irregular shape. This causes the bones forming the hip joint to form a poor fit, causing the bones to rub during movement and eventually cause friction damage in the joint. This eventually causes bone spurs that over time can tear the labrum, as was the case with Thomas.
The signs that something was wrong were mounting, as Thomas was moving with noticeably less agility and did not show his usual intensity on the ball. While observers wondered if Thomas was playing hurt or was just worn down from everything he had gone through during the playoffs, the Celtics were intently monitoring his health, nervous something worse was going on.
“I was worried going into the Cleveland series and he was nowhere near himself in Game One or Two,” Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub Thursday. “In Game Two in the second quarter, it was clear he was in a lot of pain and we couldn’t let him play the second half.”
Thomas detailed his goals ahead to get back to being great, acknowledging how great a challenge it will be to be patient while not knowing how long he will be off the court recovering.
"Everybody's said I've gotta be patient," Thomas said. "I've never been patient in my life so this is going to be a tough summer. But I've gotta do what's best for me in the long run, what's best for my body. As Brad continues to say each and every day, it's how you're healthiest for the long run. Even Danny and those guys say that, so that says a lot about who they are as people.
“Most importantly, they care about my health, not just being a basketball player. So the Celtics are definitely behind me in this tough situation, but, I mean, nobody's going to feel sorry for me. I just have to keep going and figure out what I've gotta do to come back at the highest level possible."
Despite the uncertain near future for Thomas, he aims to be the Tom Brady of the NBA, winning MVPs and playing for the rest of eternity.
"The plan is to play until 40, and they know that. All them doctors know that. So whatever they have to do to continue to play at not just a normal level, at an MVP level, that's what I've been on them doctors about, and everybody on that training staff is. No matter what happens, let's make sure I come back even better. And I will."
To get back to that level, he faces a long recovery even if he skips surgery. He thrives on a high-torque game, pushing his joints and limbs to their limits to bounce around with a speed and power nearly unmatched. As his body heals, he will have to strengthen other components of his game to remain effective as he gets healthier and regains his explosiveness. Working back to that point is not the challenge. It’s the patience to let his body catch up to his determination.
"They know how my body is, they know how hard I work," he said. "Their thing is just about being patient, letting the body heal on its own and then we go from there. So that's the thing that I've gotta trust in them about is just being patient and not rushing anything. Taking it day by day, and whatever happens within the next 4-6 weeks, then we go from there and attack that as is."
The King in the Fourth will be the King of the Rehab for now, eschewing his typical summer routine of hooping it up any time, any where.
“I usually take a few weeks off and I’m at least playing at a YMCA or something. But that’s gonna be the toughest thing, because I love hoop. Any gym, I try to be at, no matter who’s there playing. That’s probably going to be the toughest part for me, just being patient and letting my body heal and understand what’s important for the future.”
The future is bright in Boston. Thomas and his bosses are committed to allowing him to take his time to help it shine more than anywhere else in the NBA. There remains plenty of unknown ahead for Isaiah Thomas, but there is little doubt that he will do everything possible to get back to greatness.