Before making his highly anticipated debut for the Los Angeles Lakers, two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas got the chance to speak to the media for the first time since being dealt by the Cleveland Cavaliers at the trade deadline.
Thomas seemed to be in good sprits and sounded like he was ready to get things rolling with his new team.
“I’m happy to be here with the Lakers. Happy to be here with a young team that’s exciting and likes to get up and down and that’s my style of play ... I’m here to help in any way possible,” Thomas said.
In his 15 games with the Cavaliers, Thomas struggled mightily, shooting career-lows from the field and from behind the arc while failing to contribute in any meaningful way on the defensive end. However, Thomas feels he can rediscover his old form in Los Angeles, likening it to a situation he was brought into just three years ago.
“It’s a fresh start for me. It kind of reminds me of the same situation when I got traded to Boston. It was a young team that was thinking ‘rebuild’ but we had some different thoughts on that and we made a push to the playoffs ... we can take advantage of this opportunity we have to end the season. It’s about winning and it’s about winning right now.”
When Thomas joined the Celtics in 2015, they were 12 games below. 500 with a 20-32 record. However, after the All-Star break, the Celtics won 20 of their final 31 games, with Thomas leading the team with 19 points and 5.4 assists per game off the bench.
The question is, would Thomas accept a similar bench role after being an All-Star in each of the past two seasons? Thomas thinks so, at least for now.
“Right now, they’ve been playing well. It’s the best they’ve been playing so I don’t want to mess anything up and I told [Luke] that. Whatever he needs me to do, I’m willing to do. Yes, I would love to be a starter. I feel like I deserve that and earned that, but at the same time it’s a new chapter for me. I’m here to help this team, help these young guys ... I’m going to what I can to help.”
That’s a stark contrast from the text Thomas’ agent reportedly sent ESPN’s Rachel Nichols when the trade was announced, which read in all caps, “HE’S NOT COMING OFF THE BENCH.” In fact, Thomas welcomes the challenge of mentoring the Lakers’ point guard of the future, Lonzo Ball, and believes they can co-exist in the backcourt.
“That’s fine. I’ve been in the league six more years than [Ball] has. Obviously I’m going to help him out. We’re part of the same team, he’s a special young player and he’s going to be an incredible young talent in this league for years to come.
“I’ve been in similar backcourts with Avery Bradley, with Marcus Smart, with other guards that bring different dimensions to the game so I’m excited about being able to compete, being able to play with all these young guys and I’m just ready to play and go have fun again.”
Thomas will come off the bench in his debut in Dallas, but the Lakers reportedly plan on slowly integrating him into the starting lineup. Until then, Thomas plans to buy into his role and get off to a good and healthy start in Los Angeles.
“I’m getting back to where I want to be. My body feels good and it’s a new start for. It will be fun.”