The Lakers made a big splash during the NBA trade deadline when they shipped Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr to Cleveland for former All-Star Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and Cleveland’s 2018 first-round pick.
Thomas got off to a shaky start in Cleveland once he returned from a hip injury that sidelined him until January. This was a result of shaky play while still recovering and locker room issues that he seemed to generate and ultimately led to his departure from the team.
Once Thomas’ agent heard the news of the trade and the possibility that he would come off the bench, he sent a text to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols claiming Thomas would be starting.
However, it seems that Thomas’ agent has backed away from that notion. In an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, he was asked what he believed the new Lakers role would be.
I have no idea what the role will be for either of them. That’s really going to be up to (coach) Luke (Walton) and the Lakers. My concern is only that Isaiah gets into L.A., and is afforded the opportunity to continue to play on the level he’s been playing. Other than that, it’s not in my control.
This is certainly a much softer stance from Thomas’ agent than his initial reaction. Vice President of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson, said in the team’s press conference that Thomas would be playing big minutes and that playing time is of a higher priority than starting or coming off the bench.
When Johnson made the trade call to Thomas and explained the situation that he would be coming into, it seems that turned the tide for the new Laker. Thomas and his agent were pleased with the way Johnson and General Manager, Rob Pelinka, envisioned the former All-Star’s role for the team.
Once he spoke to (Lakers president of basketball operations) Magic (Johnson) and (general manager) Rob (Pelinka), he was ecstatic about the opportunity. It’s clear that he’ll get a chance to play, and play up-tempo like he has played throughout his career. And that’s all we can ask for. That was our biggest concern.
There were expectations that if he did not like his role, Thomas and his agent would push for a buy out from the club, but that seems unlikely at this point.
The situation with Thomas’ role is still ongoing, especially given Lonzo Ball’s return status in question, and whether or not he is starting will ultimately be up to head coach Luke Walton. The second-year coach has been able to handle player roles well for the majority of the year, but he has another test ahead now that there will be two new faces with the team.