It’s easy to forget Isaiah Thomas played for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, considering it was only 17 games and in those 17 games, he didn’t necessarily make a last impression—but he played nonetheless.
Thomas hasn’t suited for the purple and gold since mid-March after deciding to undergo season-ending hip surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip that had not fully healed.
He suffered the injury while he was still with the Boston Celtics over a year ago, but chose not to have surgery and even played through the hip soreness in the 2017 NBA playoffs despite finding out his sister had died in a car crash the day before for the start of the postseason.
His display of strength made him a fan favorite among NBA fans, especially those in Boston, but that didn’t stop the Celtics from trading him this past summer in a blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving. Although at the time he said he felt disrespected, Thomas said he has no regrets in his first interview since his hip surgery.
“No, I don’t regret it because at that time, I was going through something way bigger than basketball,” Thomas said via Shahan Ahmed of NBC LA. “So basketball was the only thing that could numb that at that point in time.”
Unfortunately, his decision to not have his sip surgically repaired sooner might have cost him millions of dollars in free agency. However, Thomas said he isn’t concerned with what awaits him this summer and even declared he’d be healthy when the time comes.
“I’ll be healthy by then,” Thomas said. “I should be fully recovered between three to four months.”
The initial timetable for Thomas following his surgery was four months, so unless something has changed since then, he won’t be back until late July, when the few teams with cap space will likely have already spent their money. Among those teams will be the Lakers, who reportedly “hold an interest” in bringing the 29-year-old point guard back for another season.
Thomas was complimentary of the organization, particularly the team’s young players and the coaching staff, who he said helped him fall in love with basketball all over again.
“I think it was a success,” Thomas said about his time in LA. “I came in here. I had nothing in my agenda, nothing in my plans. I just wanted to play basketball and get my joy back, and being the Lakers brought that joy back from having a tough couple months to coming here and having fun and Luke [Walton] saying ‘We want you to be who you are,’ to be around a good group of guys was also pretty good to end the season.”
Thomas added, “These guys are special. They’re a special group of young group of talented guys. Coaching staff is special too. I thanked them for the opportunity. You never know what can happen.”
Head coach Luke Walton was just as appreciative of Thomas and his willingness to accept his role off the bench despite being an All-Star in each of the last two seasons.
“The team’s agenda always came first, and he never complained about it once,” Walton told ESPN. “... Him and Julius [Randle] had a nice connection going. I loved the banter between him and [Kyle Kuzma] out there on the floor. He was great. You go down the line, he affected all the guys that played minutes for us, the young guys.”
Thomas’ future with the Lakers largely hinges on what happens with a few of the bigger names set to hit the market this summer, but if Thomas or the Lakers find themselves in a mutually beneficial situation in free agency, it sounds like both parties would welcome a reunion.
All quotes were transcribed via NBC LA’s Shahan Ahmed.