Isaiah Thomas appeared in his first game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, and he feels like he’s normal again.
The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Isaiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers in the package that returned Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance as a part of their overhaul during last week’s trade deadline. On Saturday, the former MVP candidate started his tenure with the Lakers with a bang, recording 22 points and six assists in his debut.
Cleveland acquired Thomas last summer in the deal that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. He struggled mightily. After returning from his hip injury, Thomas played 15 for the Cavaliers and was averaging 14.7 points and 4.5 assists at the time of his departure. Thomas’ shooting clip fell dramatically to 36.1 percent overall, and Cleveland got a shell of the same player who finished third in the NBA in scoring last season.
Koby Altman orchestrated multiple deals last week to fix the slew of problems Cleveland had. Defense, three-point shooting and age were at the top, but there was also some tension within the locker room. To help convince LeBron James to stay, the front office had to clean house.
“I was shocked,” said Thomas after learning of the trade. “It was a surprise, but at the same time, I am happy to have a new start, I am happy to be here with the Lakers, happy to be with a young team that is exciting, that likes to get up and down. That’s my style of play. I am here to help in any way possible. It’s a fresh start for me. I am excited.”
Thomas played 31 minutes off the bench, and it’s unclear if he’ll take the starting job by the time Lonzo Ball comes back from injury. At this point, however, Thomas is concerned with helping the team win and would do whatever makes that possible.
The performance that Thomas had on Saturday is worlds different compared to what we saw in Cleveland, and Channing Fyre, who also got traded to Los Angeles, has a theory behind that, stating that his struggles were “just system-based.” The Cavaliers needed a complimentary scorer to James, and a fully-healthy Thomas could’ve filled that role with no problem — the key phrase being “fully-healthy.” Upon returning, he had no rhythm and no explosiveness, his two most crucial attributes.
Moreover, Cleveland doesn’t run a system conducive to Isaiah Thomas’ success. In Boston, Brad Stevens had a gorgeous offense that ran through Thomas and was vastly different to the LeBron-centric one that he joined. Now with the Lakers, the 29-year-old is in an uptempo, unselfish scheme that creates more opportunities.
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