When the Los Angeles Lakers brought Isaiah Thomas into the fold at the trade deadline, there was hope that he would once again become the unstoppable dynamo that he was during his time with the Boston Celtics last season.
Instead, Thomas has largely continued with the struggles that plagued his short time with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. Coming off of a hip injury, Thomas still hasn’t found his form, and his minutes have dropped as a result.
With his contract expiring this summer, Thomas stands to lose a lot of money if he can’t get things back on track quickly. Despite some of his struggles, Lakers head coach Luke Walton praised Thomas for his professionalism despite the situation.
“That’s a work in progress, but he’s been great. He’s been out there, leading on the floor and talking to the guys about where to be with positioning. He hasn’t complained at all,” Walton said.
“I know he wants to start, I know he wants to be in all the time. There’s games where he’s played huge minutes, there’s games where he hasn’t finished down the stretch. He’s been an unbelievable teammate to these guys and a great professional.”
Even with Thomas potentially looking for a new home this summer, the Lakers are still committed to getting the very best out of him that they can. It’s not completely out of the question for him to remain in Los Angeles next season, but it’s clear the Lakers will chase some high-profile targets with their cap space first.
Walton and Thomas have been working together to find solutions to the problem, with the coach considering tweaks to their offense in order to get his newest player on track.
“I spent time talking to him as far as what he sees, what we can do as a coaching staff to get him cleaner looks or plays that he’s run with other teams, now that he’s seen how we play,” Walton explained. “The communication is open and we’re continuing to build that and work towards what’s most effective for us.”
On Monday against the Portland Trailblazers, Thomas had the ball in his hands with a chance to tie the game, but had it stolen as he rose up for his shot. Just moments before, Thomas missed a critical free throw that would have cut the Lakers’ deficit to just two points.
This was out-of-character for a player who developed a reputation last season for his crunch time exploits, but Walton believes that Thomas still has the ability to close games.
“We have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to make those shots. Most nights he will. He’s proven that he’s one of those players that, the fourth quarter, the bigger the game gets, the more pressure, that’s normally when he plays at his best,” Walton said.
“He’ll be a guy that we continue to look to get buckets for us in fourth quarters and late in games.”
With 19 games remaining on the schedule, Thomas has a limited window to prove to the NBA that he has recovered from his hip injury and will regain his form. Whether or not he remains with the Lakers past this season, the team hopes they can help him find his way again, and in turn, he can help them pick up morale-boosting wins as the season winds to a close.
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