When the Los Angeles Lakers traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a first-round pick at the trade deadline, most analysis focused on the cap space L.A. had cleared, or that they got a draft pick.
Very little thought was given to the idea of keeping Thomas, who had struggled mightily with the Cavaliers while working to round into form after undergoing hip surgery. The timing could not have been worse, as Thomas is on track to become a free agent this summer.
Part of that brushing off of the idea of keeping the former MVP candidate was due to his injury issues this year, while some was a reticence to commit big money to an aging, undersized point guard when the Lakers already have Lonzo Ball as their long-term future at the position.
“I’m coming to an L.A. team that’s young, that already has a system. And I just want to help. Hopefully I’m here long term, you know, with me being a free agent this summer. But if I’m not, these last 25 games I’m going to play my heart out and show the Lakers why I should be here long term.”
Thomas and Ball showing they share the court over the Lakers’ final 23 games would be huge if Thomas is actually hoping to make a more permanent home with the Lakers.
It’s something that seems plausible if a) Ball shows he can take the tougher defensive assignment in opposing backcourts, and b) Thomas gets back somewhere closer to the level of play he’s shown over the last several years of his career rather than the struggles he displayed in Cleveland.
It’s not a certainty, but if both of those things happen and Thomas is willing to take a somewhat team-friendly deal, then it’s not totally implausible to think he’ll get his wish. That’s a lot of hurdles to clear, however. Specifically the Lakers’ reported desire to sign LeBron James and/or Paul George.
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