Isaiah Thomas scores 22 in his Lakers debut
Isaiah Thomas’ brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers was marred by controversy and dysfunction. He felt attacked, unwanted and betrayed and the Cavs surely felt like they didn’t get the return on the Kyrie Irving blockbuster that they had hoped for.
Following the trade deadline, both parties got what they wanted. Cleveland got better and I.T. was released from the drama that clouded his road to recovery. While Thomas expressed his exhaustion with being shipped year after year to a new location, ultimately he will be able to begin again with a franchise that desperately needs his creativity and shotmaking ability.
Despite Lonzo Ball continuing to miss games due to injury, the Los Angeles Lakers chose to bring Thomas off of the bench in a sixth man role against the Dallas Mavericks. It wasn’t the part he wanted to play when he started the year off in Cleveland, but he thrived in as a spark in the second unit.
Thomas scored 22 points in his Lakers debut and he already looked more at home in his first game under head coach Luke Walton than he ever did in a Cavs uniform. It’s very nice that he seemed comfortable, but Los Angele still lost the game to Dallas 130-123.
The Lakers led for much of the first half, but their play plateaued in the final two quarters as they couldn’t stay in front of the fellow bottom dwelling Mavericks. Their inability to close games is nothing and they must work on keeping their foot on the throttle as they tend to play a but lazy when they get out in front.
Julius Randle flirted with a triple double as he dropped 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers, and Brandon Ingram continued to play top notch basketball at the point guard position while filling in for the injured Ball.
Dallas had more than a realtively meaningless victory to celebrate. The team scored a season high 130 points and Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 22 and threw in a dunk for the first time in over a year for good measure. Harrison Barnes added another 21 points to the Mavs total and Dwight Powell chipped in a quick 19 points off of the bench.
Los Angeles wasn’t the only team out on the floor with a new name on an unfamiliar jersey. The Dallas Mavericks acquired sharpshooter Doug McDermott from the Knicks at the deadline and transitioned him into the lineup from the pine as well. McDermott only had eight points in his Dallas debut, but he will probably fit into the team’s longterm plans as a Kyle Korver type player.
Although McDermott’s role has been clearly defined, Isaiah Thomas’ role is not so black and white. Despite multiple questions regarding I.T. and his fit, head coach Luke Walton has continued to commit to Lonzo Ball as his starting point guard while refusing to rule out Thomas a starter somewhere else in the lineup.
At Thomas’ height, there are only so many positions he can play and we already know he needs the ball in his hands to play his game successfully. With that in mind, it’s hard to see him in a Lakers’ jersey down the road if he continues to desire to be the alpha.
His defense is a liability and his offense hasn’t looked like last year’s breakout performance. It’s hard to watch a guy go from the best player on a title contender to an afterthought on a forgettable team, but in the NBA nothing can be taken for granted.
I.T is heading into a contract year in which he’ll most desire to be paid the big bucks of your typical superstar. Whether he earns that handsome payday will depend largely on the Lakers’ willingness to give him big minutes and plenty of shots.
Let Thomas and Los Angeles get out of the honeymoon phase and then let’s see where they stand. I hate to put the kibosh on something before it really begins, but I can already smell discontent brewing in the air.