New York Knicks: The lost season of Lance Thomas

Mar 6, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (42) shoots a practice shot before an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks’ 2016-17 season was filled with plenty of highs and lows in regards to role players on the roster, especially forward Lance Thomas.

Lance Thomas was traded to the New York Knicks during the dreaded 2014-15 season with hopes of eventually earning a multi-year deal. His timely scoring and tenacity on defense earned the journeyman forward the deal he coveted heading into this past season.

After signing the new deal worth $27 million over the next four years, Thomas was quickly hampered by injuries to start the season.

An ankle injury kept him out of an few games, but the biggest blow came in a road matchup on Jan. 15 with the Toronto Raptors. Thomas was on the receiving end of a elbow hitting him in the face, fracturing the orbital bone. The injury cost Thomas a month of the season and led to plenty of headaches as he would go on to tell reporters during rehab.

“I’m getting my headaches from the actual fracture, it’s in a tight spot. A lot of pressure in the area is causing it. It’s getting better. Once it goes away I can do more things with conditioning. Until it happens, it’s hard for me to keep my eyes open. I thought my teeth were falling out, I was literally holding my mouthguard up because I thought my teeth were falling out. It was a hard hit.”

Thomas continued to have problems staying on the floor as he only appeared in 46 games. A hip injury kept the Brooklyn, NY native out of the remaining few games of the year as the Knicks submerged into full tank mode for better lottery position. His 6.2 points per game were far below the expectations set for him as the Knicks’ primary player off the bench.

His defense while matching up with some of the best forwards and guards in the game has been hit or miss on most nights — none more evident than the two games against the Milwaukee Bucks that matched Thomas up with All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Thomas was beaten in their first matchup with a game-winner, but rebounded effectively in the following game by stripping the “Greek Freak” and causing a turnover to end the game.

Before signing his new contract with the Knicks this past summer, Thomas was courted by several teams but ultimately decided to stay in New York. He spoke with reporters about the decision and having the desire to win in his home state.

“I didn’t want my legacy as a Knick to be a loser. My first year, the team, we had not a good record. Last year was better, but as a competitor and a winner, I want more. The city wants more. And everybody that wants a Knicks jersey should want more. I don’t want to be a losing Knick. I want to win in New York. My decision to come back was pretty easy. The moves we made made it even easier.”

The plan for Thomas next season appears to be the same with probably a bigger emphasis on staying healthy.

His durability will be the key to the Knicks turning things around in 2017-18.

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