Although the Los Angeles Lakers saw their modest three-game winning streak snapped by the Minnesota Timberwolves, there were a couple of bright spots.
The most positive takeaway was the play of Isaiah Thomas, who recently signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers via the NBA Hardship Exception provision. Los Angeles currently has six players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, which allowed them to sign Thomas, who came in and immediately showed he could still play.
Against the Timberwolves, Thomas played 21 minutes off the bench and scored 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting. The point guard was an offensive spark on a night Los Angeles needed some energy and he opened up about how grateful he is to be back with the Lakers:
“It’s amazing to be on the Lakers again to be able to be teammates with Hall of Fame guys, Hall of Fame coaching staffs. I’m just thankful for the opportunity, first and foremost,” Thomas said after the game.
Without Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk, Avery Bradley and Austin Reaves, the Lakers are suddenly short on guards who can handle the ball and score, so Thomas should be able to step in and fill that void for the remainder of his deal. Even though he may be compromised defensively due to his size, Thomas showed he can still get buckets at the NBA level and that alone will make him a useful stopgap until the rest of the roster gets healthy.
Thomas has been through a lot in recent years as far as health goes with his hip. He discussed some of the low moments he went through to get to this point.
“My low moments was just not being able to play at the level I’m used to playing at. I was very frustrated when your mind is telling you to do something that your body won’t allow you to do it. That was my first major injury. Basketball is everything to me, so it really stopped me from being who I am. It really stopped me from being happy. Basketball always made me happy.
“So it was tough for me. Those were the lowest moments of my life. Obviously, at 17 my sister passed away, and then like everything went downhill it felt like. But I laid on my support system, which is my family. My wife, my kids, and they kept me going.”
When Thomas entered the game, he got a standing ovation from the crowd in Minnesota, which he was appreciative of.
“The dopest moment for me, when I checked in the game and they really cheered for me. This is an away game. Those moments mean more to me than anything just because people respect what I do and respect the grind I’m on and I think me being 5’9″ helps. I’m the normal person’s height. People cheer for me just because of that, but this whole situation, I’m so thankful for. I never thought I would feel this way again. I have no limitations with my body, with my hip and that’s why just smile so much because I’m just in a great place mentally and great place physically.”
This is now Thomas’ second stint with the Lakers, with his first coming after he was traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2017-18 season. While the guard played well, he was eventually ruled out for the remainder of the year after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to his right hip. Since then, Thomas has struggled to stick in the NBA, though his recent showing could land him a longer stay either in Los Angeles or elsewhere.
Thomas happy to be healthy
It was easy to see how much healthier Thomas looked out on the floor compared to recent years, and he is happy about that and excited for what’s to come.
“It’s everything for me,” Thomas said of being healthy. “Like I said, I loved basketball before I loved anything. So to be able to play at the highest level with no pain and on top of getting the love I received on social media, any arena I’m in that makes me keep going.
“I’ve said it before, I’m not motivated by anything but the love of the game. So that’s like the space I’m in right now. Any way I can help this team, anyway I can help with any opportunity I get, I’m going to do it with a smile on my face and I’m going to work the hardest I possibly can.”
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