When the Los Angeles Lakers went through a season-worst nine-game losing streak in December and into January, it essentially dashed any remote hope of the team making an unexpected run to the playoffs. It also erased some of the optimism on the overall state of the franchise that had come with their play.
But since Jan. 7, the Lakers have produced three separate four-game winning streaks, and now have won a season-best five games in a row. Their latest victory came in thrilling fashion, as the Lakers erased a 17-point deficit to finish 4-0 on their road trip.
While the Lakers lost their first three games after trading for Isaiah Thomas, the former MVP candidate has been a catalyst off the bench. Thomas also hasn’t made any secret that he isn’t fully on board with the notion of the team focusing on the future.
Following their comeback win against the San Antonio Spurs, Thomas said he believes his message has played a role in the Lakers looking like a different team of late, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“We believe. When I got here I said, ‘Why not win now?’ Not saying it’s all on me or we’re winning just because of me, but I think I put that in these guys’ minds. Like, we can win every game we play in. Why can’t we? We’re just as good as everybody else. Let’s think, ‘win now,’ and let’s try to make a run for the playoffs. Like I said, I’ve been in this situation before, when I got traded to Boston. It was a young team thinking rebuild and play the young guys and things like that. But we came together like, ‘Shoot, if we play hard and leave it all out there on the floor, anything can happen.’ I think that’s what we’re going through right now.”
Even though the trade was financially-driven on the Lakers’ side, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton have all spoken highly of Thomas.
Aside from providing a scoring punch off the bench, Thomas has drawn praise for his leadership and willingness to help mentor some of the team’s young players, specifically fellow point guard Lonzo Ball. The two have often shared time on the court, and enjoyed playing alongside one another.
The Lakers begin Sunday still 6.5 games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference standings. But at the very least, Thomas has helped fuel them to finishing the season on a positive note.