Isaiah Thomas shocked at trade from Cleveland Cavaliers, ready for fresh start with Los Angeles Lakers

NBA


DALLAS — Shocked that the Cleveland Cavaliers traded him after just 15 games, Isaiah Thomas is ready for a “fresh start” with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thomas and Channing Frye, who were traded to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., will come off the bench in their Lakers debut against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.

Thomas said he wants to be a starter, but doesn’t want to disrupt the Lakers’ current momentum as they’ve won 12 of their past 16 games. He had dinner with head coach Luke Walton in Dallas on Friday night.

“This is the best they have been playing,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to mess anything up. And I told [Walton] that. Whatever he needs me to do, I am willing to do that.

“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 am here to help this team, help these young guys, continue to be professional, continue to work hard and continue to gel together.”

Walton said he’s keeping his options open about Thomas’ role moving forward.

“Isaiah, he is one of the best point guards in our league,” Walton said. “And I am quite aware of that. He’s been with the team for 12 hours now. We are going to get him playing and get him used to what we do and I told him that for us, it doesn’t matter who starts and who doesn’t. We’re a group that different groups finish the game all the time for us.”

Thomas, who averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists in his first 15 games back from a hip injury with Cleveland, said he was “shocked” at being traded Thursday.

“It was a surprise, but at the same time, I am happy to have a new start,” Thomas said. “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.”

“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 than that and we made a push to the playoffs. That is my job, to come to this team and bring that spirit, that fire, that killer’s mentality and just understand that we can take advantage of this opportunity that we have [the rest of] the season. It’s about winning and it is about winning right now.”

With Lonzo Ball out with a sprained MCL, Brandon Ingram has flourished at point guard, averaging 15.9 points, 3.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds while leading the Lakers to four consecutive victories.

“I am not too worried about [what the role will be],” Thomas said. “Basketball things always work itself out, if you are all in it for the team and control what you can. And that is what I am going to do. I am going to bring scoring and playmaking to this team and do what I can to help.”

When Ball returns from his injury, Walton could start Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ingram, Julius Randle and Brook Lopez.

“[Thomas] wants to start, of course he does,” Walton added. “Everybody wants to start. But he was absolutely great when we were at dinner last night. I expect him to really help our team out, and I expect him to be a positive influence on our team and help us win ballgames. …

“We are going to reward guys that are playing hard, playing the right way, that are going to help us, in our opinion, give us the best chance of winning ballgames.”

Thomas did not want to reflect on his short time with the Cavaliers and what went wrong in Cleveland. Frye said the pieces just didn’t fit, as evidenced by Cleveland adding four new players — Rodney Hood, George Hill, Clarkson and Nance Jr. — at the trade deadline.

“I think it just wasn’t working,” Frye said. “I don’t think it was a chemistry off the court thing because I went and talked to those guys all the time. I just think on the court, there just wasn’t enough give and take. I don’t think we were built to sacrifice for each other. I think a lot of guys had success in different systems. There wasn’t enough time for them to adjust to doing it a certain way and that happens.”

While Thomas is making his way back from a hip injury, Frye says the point guard will return to the form that had him averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists last year. Both players are in the final year of their contract.

“I’ll be honest, he’s gonna be fine,” Frye said of Thomas. “… I think everyone makes a big deal out of it because it’s Isaiah, but Kyle [Korver] wasn’t having a great year. I wasn’t having a great year. Jae [Crowder] wasn’t having a great year. Dwyane Wade. You gotta put all these different personalities and groups together, it sometimes just doesn’t work out.

“There’s nothing [wrong] with him. You’re gonna see. He’s gonna ball. How many games do we have left? You’re gonna see Isaiah start to become the old Isaiah, especially with a faster pace. Especially the way the ball moves and pops here. I think this is a better system for him.”

Lakers president Magic Johnson said he wants to see Thomas mentor Ball and take the rookie under his wing.

“I mean, that’s fine,” Thomas said. “I have been in the league six more years than he has. Obviously, I am going to help him out. We are part of the same team. He’s a special young player, and he is going to be an incredible talent in this league for years to come.

“My job is to help where I can. I am still in my prime. So it is not like I am taking a backseat to anybody. I am here to be who I am and here to make a difference on this team and I am excited about the opportunity.”



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