In leading the Boston Celtics to the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, Isaiah Thomas was laying the foundation for what was expected to be a lucrative contract come 2018 free agency. However, a hip injury prevented him from playing in Games 3, 4 and 5, and threw Thomas’ outlook off course.
While rehabbing the torn labrum, he was traded last offseason to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster for Kyrie Irving. Thomas didn’t make his debut with the Cavs until January of this year, and his tenure with the team lasted all of 15 games.
Then it was on to the Los Angeles Lakers, Thomas’ favorite team growing up. There was initial concern the veteran point guard would not accept a role off the bench but Thomas was largely a model teammate.
But after playing through discomfort, he elected for season-ending hip surgery in late March. Although the procedure may impact free agency, the four-month recovery will allow for Thomas to at last get healthy and pain free.
As for what the offseason may entail, Thomas expressed his fondness for the Lakers organization and explained how he will approach free agency during an appearance on “Chris and Caron” with Chris Mannix and Caron Butler:
“I think the biggest thing for me is the best opportunity for me and my family. The best situation for me. I think that’s what it has to be and the only thing it’s about is being happy in the situation, making sure it’s the best situation for me and my game, and the direction of whatever team I choose to go to is headed in. I mean, I love the Lakers. The Lakers organization is amazing. You just never know when July 1 comes. I’ve got to keep my options open and make sure it’s the best basketball decision from myself and I’ll take it from there.”
While the Lakers are expected to pursue the likes of Paul George and LeBron James, they reportedly would have interest in re-signing Thomas to a one-year contract, dependent on how they fair with marquee free agents.
Thomas averaged 15.6 points and 5.0 assists over 17 games (one start) with the Lakers. Beyond what he was able to contribute on the court, head coach Luke Walton and the Lakers front office lauded Thomas for his leadership.
Rookie Kyle Kuzma and Thomas enjoyed a particularly close relationship, one in which they could openly challenge each other. So much so that Kuzma was comfortable explaining that he didn’t understand why Thomas yelled at him for a sequence in which the point guard was at fault.
While there may be mutual interest between the Lakers and Thomas, it might be reasonable to assume they aren’t necessarily each other’s first option come free agency.
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