Isaiah Thomas Was ‘Shocked’ By Trade To Lakers, But ‘Happy’ To Join Fast-Pace Team And Accepting Of Bench Role
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers made one of the biggest splashes of any team at the trade deadline, with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka pulling the trigger on a deal that sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and Cleveland’s own lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.

Much of the analysis of that trade focused on the cap space that the Lakers cleared in the deal, but lost in all of that has been just how good of a player Thomas was last year for the Boston Celtics, and how much he could help the Lakers if he recovers from offseason hip surgery.

That’s a big if considering how poorly Thomas has played this year, and there was also reason for concern about whether he’d accept a more limited role at all after a text from his agent, Aaron Goodwin, which Rachel Nichols of ESPN read on air, strongly suggesting Thomas wouldn’t be happy with a bench role.

Nonetheless, Lakers head coach Luke Walton confirmed Saturday that Thomas would indeed come off the bench with his new team. Despite previous indications, Thomas is full accepting of that role, via team reporter Mike Trudell:

As for being traded, Thomas expressed some surprise over it, but is happy to be with the Lakers who play at a fast pace:

It can be presumed Thomas’ acceptance of his standing on the Lakers roster is in some part tied to a positive conversation Johnson said he had with the 2018 free agent. This is one of the perpetually undervalued parts of having Johnson in the front office for the Lakers.

Not only the greatest point guard in NBA history, Johnson is a living legend, someone whose voice and enthusiasm can speak to players in the league, get them to potentially buy in when they wouldn’t have otherwise.

It apparently has eased Thomas’ concerns about his role, and while it remains to be seen if he can play any better in Los Angeles than he did in Cleveland, a brightening of his attitude thanks to Johnson and Pelinka certainly can’t hurt.

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