Isaiah Thomas’ season debut made for one of the few positives of the Los Angeles Lakers’ clash with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.
The coronavirus-struck Lakers fell to 110-92 the Timberwolves after a miserable performance, ending their three-game winning streak. They also lost Anthony Davis to a knee injury with the forward scheduled for re-evaluation in four weeks after an MRI revealed an MCL sprain.
Davis joined the six other Lakers ruled out of the game due to health issues and NBA-imposed quarantine. That allowed Thomas to spend nearly 22 minutes on the floor on the day he signed with L.A., finishing the night with 19 points while shooting 2-for-6 (33.3%) from downtown.
By making three free throws late in the fourth quarter, the 32-year-old guard even passed LeBron James as the Lakers’ best scorer of the night. James was happy to see the veteran guard back in the league nearly eight months after his last NBA appearance.
“First of all, I’ve always had respect for him and I’m happy to see him back in the league,” James said.
“The difference between when we were teammates in Cleveland and now is that he’s healthy now. He wasn’t healthy in Cleveland and he was playing out of pure grit and his hip was just not allowing him to be who he was before the injury. So obviously he has his pop back, he has his shot back and it’s good to have him.”
Thomas briefly played with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18, before the team traded him and Channing Frye to the Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
Thanks to that short spell as teammates — and L.A.’s roster’s vast experience — the four-time NBA champion said it wasn’t difficult for the Purple and Gold to introduce the guard to the rotation.
“We just tried to implement a couple things early on in shootaround,” James said. “I know what he’s capable of doing, I know how he affects the game and what he’s good at, so a lot of uphill dribble handoffs when he’s coming to his left hand. You know he’s gonna shoot the ball very well, he gets into the paint and can shoot free throws extremely well.
“So when you have a veteran ballclub, you can add a veteran and he’s able to mesh pretty quickly because we kind of know what he’s been able to do in this league so you know what you can do with him.”
Thomas ‘thankful’ for opportunity to play for Lakers again
Thomas said his break from the NBA was “one of the lowest moments of his life.” After the game, the guard expressed his gratitude for the chance to return to the league and reunite 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.
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