BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas knows all too well that the NBA is indeed a business. But even he was caught off guard at how quickly the Cleveland Cavaliers went into “panic mode” and traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers.
In an interview with ESPN’s E:60 that will air on March 11, Thomas said he didn’t think the Cavs “would pull the trigger that fast, 15 games.”
And while there was certainly an understanding that it might take some time for Thomas to get back to all-star form after returning to action from a hip injury, Cleveland was just 7-8 when Thomas played and did not look a team that was going to turn the corner anytime soon.
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Making matters worse, Thomas averaged just 14.7 points per game with the Cavs which was a far cry from the 29 points per game he averaged last season in Boston which by the way, led all players in the Eastern Conference in points per game.
“The Cavs were, I mean, they were in panic mode,” Thomas said. “We were losing – a lot. And I think they felt like they needed to make a move, and they, they basically cleared house.”
Thomas would go on to explain some of the challenges he experienced in Cleveland which acquired him, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a pair of draft picks (one of which was the 2018 unprotected first-round pick from Brooklyn) from Boston, on August 22 in exchange for Kyrie Irving.
"It was a tough situation I was being put in," Thomas said. "It was, it was different. It's hard to get acclimated to a team halfway through the season.
Thomas added, "People don't put in there that we had eight or nine new players. So, it was basically a brand new team. ... I'm in a new system. New team, new coach, new players. And then I've been off for seven months. So, I got to get -- individually, I got to for the most part get my rhythm back, get my timing back."
And while he would have preferred things worked out in Cleveland, he sees being traded to the Lakers a chance to reinvigorate the franchise similar to what he did for Boston after the Phoenix Suns traded him to the Celtics at the trade deadline in 2015.
“I just brought a different swagger to that (Celtics) organization,” Thomas said. “And we took it and ran with it."
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The Celtics improved their record in each of Thomas’ seasons with the Celtics, the last of which included Boston finishing with the best record in the East while advancing to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to Cleveland.
"I'm coming to an L.A. team that's young, that already has a system,” Thomas said. “And I just want to help. Hopefully I'm here long term, you know, with me being a free agent this summer. But if I'm not, these last 25 games I'm going to play my heart out and show the Lakers why I should be here long term."
In five games (all off the bench) with the Lakers, Thomas has averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists while playing 21.8 minutes per game.