Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak currently surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers, Rob Pelinka and the front office used a Hardship Exception to bring in Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas played for the Lakers in the second half of the 2017-18 season and is attempting an NBA comeback after being out of the league due to injuries.
The last time Thomas was a Laker, he publicly shared his bond with Kobe Bryant. The two had grown close during Thomas’ rise to fame in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, and Bryant would often be in communication with him over any number of topics.
Bryant’s tragic death in Jan. 2020 feels very far in the past, but it was fresh on Thomas’ mind when the Lakers came calling for a 10-day contract.
“It’s just weird he’s not here at all,” Thomas said after his season debut on Friday. “For me to put on a Laker uniform again, the first thing I thought of when Rob [Pelinka] called me was Kobe. What would Kobe think about this. He would always send me a text when something dope happened.
“I wish he was here. I wish he was here not just for myself, but for everybody. But you just got to try to continue to move on as best as possible, but he was somebody that was very important in my life. It is different this time around to not even be able to text him and talk to him, especially with the opportunity I have with this 10-day contract.”
Thomas excelled in his second debut with the Lakers despite a bad loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He finished as the team’s leading scorer with 19 points, marking just the seventh time this season that someone outside the Big 3 led the team in points.
With all the injuries and COVID scares facing the Lakers, Thomas has a legitimate opportunity to show he still belongs on the NBA stage. There’s no doubt he’ll be thinking about Bryant during his Lakers tenure, regardless of how long it winds up being.
As we near the two-year anniversary of Bryant’s death, it remains evident how great his impact was on the game of basketball. Thomas gave another reminder of that with his re-introduction to the Lakers lineup.
Thomas in a great place physically and mentally
After years of various injuries keeping Thomas out of the league, he was thankful to have another opportunity with the Lakers. He spoke about his return to the game after his first Lakers appearance.
“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.”
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