Over the last few weeks, there were several rumors that the Lakers were mulling the possibility of signing Isaiah Thomas in free agency. The team even reportedly worked him out, which was followed by Thomas having a separate workout with former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James and new Lakers star Russell Westbrook.
However, the Lakers only wanted to add one more point guard, and so it had already appeared like their seemingly inevitable addition of Rajon Rondo when he clears waivers on Monday had ruled out any possibility of a second stint in purple and gold for Thomas.
But in case there was any doubt over any of this, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic seemed to confirm all those whispers shortly after news of Rondo’s impending return broke on Saturday:
Lakers were strongly considering signing Isaiah Thomas, and things appeared to be headed that way as September approaches. Rondo getting the buyout from Memphis clearly changed things in recent days. https://t.co/N5QLQS9ikZ— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) August 28, 2021
And I know what some of you are wondering: How does a Timberwolves writer know what the Lakers are thinking in regards to Thomas? Well, if you’ll recall, this isn’t the first time Krawczynski has provided a Thomas update concerning the Lakers this summer, and it’s worth noting that he broke several stories on Jimmy Butler’s one-year tenure in Minnesota, and even is still co-bylining reports of a Butler extension, two teams later.
Why is this relevant? Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee of Quartexx Management, also represents Thomas. So at minimum, it’s probably fair to guess that Thomas’ camp wanted this out there. How much that means the Lakers were actually considering him is an open question, but between all the reports, their workout of Thomas and his separate workout with James and Westbrook, it appears that he was at the very least a real option had Rondo not been bought out.
Unfortunately for Thomas, it appears that Rondo’s Grizzlies exit ends his latest chance at a Lakers (and NBA) return, but it’s pretty easy to guess why his camp would want it out there that he was close. We’ll see if the patented Lakers bogeyman trick works as well for Thomas moving forward as it did for Svi Mykhailiuk this weekend.
And to be fair, Thomas did make some degree of sense for this team, even if the fit wasn’t perfect. They could have used another point guard behind Westbrook for nights when the team wants a more traditional floor general than presumed backup 1 Kendrick Nunn or any of the team’s other combo guards, and for insurance if Westbrook misses any time.
Thomas could have filled that need, it’s just that Rondo likely fills it a lot better, given both his familiarity with James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers’ coaching staff, as well as the fact that he’s a slightly more natural initiator and table setter than Thomas. Does that mean that Thomas’ time in the NBA is done, and he’s run out of chances? Almost certainly not. But it does mean the doorway for this opportunity has probably closed, at least for now.