Chinese Basketball Challenge – USA v Brazil

Former NBA All-Stars Joe Johnson, Isaiah Thomas Returning To The Court With Team USA

Ryan Aston - Author
By

Jan. 28 2021, Updated 3:29 p.m. ET

A pair of former multi-time NBA All-Stars are reportedly set to make their respective returns to the hardwood with USA Basketball. Per a series of tweets from ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday, Joe Johnson and Isaiah Thomas have both committed to play for the U.S. men’s senior national team during the upcoming FIBA AmeriCup qualifiers.

Once known as the Tournament of the Americas — as well as the FIBA Americas Championship — the AmeriCup tournament once served as a qualifying event for basketball’s World Cup, as well as the Summer Olympic Games. Although it is no longer part of that process, the AmeriCup continues to crown a regional champion for all of the Western Hemisphere west of the Atlantic Ocean.

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For the 39-year-old Johnson, the AmeriCup represents an opportunity to ply his trade against top-flight competition more than two years after his last real taste of action in the NBA. After earning seven All-Star selections from 2007 to 2014 while playing for the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets, his career seemingly came to an end in 2018 with a brief run as a depth piece for the Houston Rockets.

After a strong showing in Ice Cube’s BIG3 league one year later, Johnson attempted a comeback with the Detroit Pistons but was ultimately waived before the start of the 2019-20 regular season.

Over nearly two decades and 1,276 career games in the NBA — during which he also suited up for the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat and Utah Jazz — Johnson scored 20,405 points, which currently ranks 44th in league history, as tracked by Basketball-Reference.

Thomas, however, may have a different goal in mind; the 31-year-old could use the event as a springboard back into the best league in the world.

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After bouncing around the association in recent years, Thomas had something of a resurgent campaign in 2019-20 with the Washington Wizards. Per Basketball-Reference, he appeared in 40 games for the club, including 37 starts, putting up 12.2 points and nearly four assists per contest. In spite of those efforts, though, the diminutive floor general was traded in February to the Los Angeles Clippers — a team that waived him shortly thereafter.

As noted by Wojnarowski, he underwent a procedure on his oft-injured hip during the offseason. His ability to remain healthy and perform at a high level with Team USA could improve his chances for an NBA return.

AmeriCup qualification will reportedly be held from February 19 through 20 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, per one of Wojnarowski’s tweets. Former longtime assistant Joe Prunty, who was most recently a member of the Phoenix Suns’ staff, is expected to coach the American side.

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