In their search of ex-Lakers to sign this offseason, the franchise may have turned away one former Laker for another. During the summer, the team reportedly expressed some level of interest in Isaiah Thomas, who had a brief tenure in the purple and gold in the second half of the 2017-18 season. Their interest extended to the point of bringing in Thomas and other players in for a workout in mid-August, with Thomas returning to work out with LeBron James and Russell Westbrook on his own.
Injuries have long derailed Thomas’ career, leaving him in search of end-of-bench roles and 10-day contracts. However, Thomas revealed in a conversation with Shams Charania of Stadium on Tuesday that the rumored interest was very real, and he very nearly joined the Lakers, with the deal only coming to a halt after Rajon Rondo was bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I was very close. I really believe that if the Rondo buyout didn’t happen, I would have been a Laker. And all respect to Rondo, and respect to the Lakers organization. I was able to work out with Bron and Westbrook, so they’ve seen me in my element, and they’ve seen me back to the person I am.
“So things happen, I can’t control that, but I was really close to signing with the Lakers and that probably would have been a really good opportunity to play with such great players and to be able to learn from (such) great players. And to be in an organization like the Lakers again, that would have been super dope. But it didn’t happen and you’ve got to move forward.”
Two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas sits down with @Stadium ahead of G League Showcase: NBA return hopes, nearly signing with the Lakers, bond with city of Boston, life-changing hip procedure. pic.twitter.com/jK4gI8loIx— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 14, 2021
First, it’s interesting that the team, at least according to Thomas, was considering him so heavily. He certainly would have provided a different dynamic than Rondo as a scoring option in the backcourt versus Rondo’s playmaking and passing style.
But it’s also interesting the degree to which it appears the Lakers were not remotely considering signing another wing to this roster. While they could not have predicted the injuries the team would have suffered in the preseason, coming off a year in which injuries derailed their season, it’s surprising how willing the team was to leave depth down to two 36-year-olds in LeBron James and Trevor Ariza while being determined to corner the market on small, one-dimensional point guards.
That the team was presumably that close to signing Thomas and that he remains a free agent leaves the door open for the future this season, though he did recently join the Nuggets G League affiliate, Grand Rapids Gold, in order to play in the G League showcase and make another potential return to the NBA.
The team could look to make moves around the edges after the trade deadline with Thomas as a possibility. But given the fact Thomas has only played 55 games since last playing for the Lakers, it’s unlikely he’ll make an enormous difference on the roster either way, no matter how well he plays in his latest opportunity as part of the G League showcase.