USA Basketball called Isaiah Thomas, who hopes NBA does next

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FILE - Washington Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas (4) stands during the National Anthem prior to an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta, in this Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, file photo. Two-time NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas hopes playing this weekend with USA Basketball in FIBA AmeriCup qualifying in Puerto Rico gives an NBA club reason to sign him. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland, File)

There was a day last spring when Isaiah Thomas noticed he could lift his leg without any pain. That hadn’t happened in years.

This weekend, he plans to show the NBA what that means for his game.

More than a year removed from his last NBA appearance, and nine months after surgery that he says fixed a bone-on-bone condition in his right hip, Thomas has games to play. The two-time All-Star is suiting up with USA Basketball for a pair of FIBA AmeriCup qualifying games in San Juan, Puerto Rico — and Thomas expects NBA teams to be watching.

“My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA as soon as possible,” Thomas, 32, told The Associated Press. “This allows me to compete against other professionals, represent my country at the same time — which is an honor and a privilege — and ultimately show NBA teams that I’m back to myself and I’m 100% healthy. That’s why I chose to come here. When Team USA brought it to me, it was a no-brainer.”

The games technically don’t mean much to the U.S.; the Americans already have qualified for the AmeriCup tournament that will take place in September 2022. But to Thomas, the matchups against the Bahamas on Friday and Mexico on Saturday mean plenty.

“My skill didn’t go anywhere,” Thomas said. “The biggest question was whether I am 100% healthy. I am now, so why not show it on a stage with ‘USA’ across your chest?”

Thomas is part of a U.S. roster loaded with NBA veterans for these two qualifying games. Joe Johnson is on the team, as is Brandon Bass, and there are five more players besides Thomas with some degree of experience within the league.

Typically, U.S. rosters for these qualifying games are almost entirely composed of G League players, names that aren’t exactly of the household variety. The NBA names add tons of intrigue, as does Thomas’ return to game action.