Isaiah Thomas has played in 16 games for the Los Angeles Lakers to date, with all but one game coming in a reserve role. His stats as a bench player (15.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game) have been better than those he's logged as a starter (14.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 4.8 apg in 15 games with the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers) this season.
Thomas will be a free agent this summer and less than a week ago told USA Today's Sam Amick he was not looking for a backup role wherever he lands for 2018-19 and beyond. "I'm not no sixth man. And I won't be a sixth man (in the future). I just want everybody to know that, like clear as can be ..."
Something has apparently changed, though, for Thomas as he recently told the Los Angeles Times that he would be open to the reserve role he currently enjoys with the team he's currently on. As he said in his USA Today interview, Thomas reiterates that he would like to reclaim the All-Star and Kia MVP contender status he enjoyed in 2015-16 and '16-17. However, he also wants to be where he is happiest, writes Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:
As Isaiah Thomas answered fan questions on Twitter on Sunday, many of the messages led to reciprocal positivity.
Lakers fans were telling him they wanted him to stay a Laker next year, and he was telling them he would love that. It's not quite that simple, of course, and there are many moving parts. And while Thomas sees himself as a starter, he told The Times he wouldn't rule out returning to the Lakers in a role similar to what he has now, coming off the bench for significant minutes.
"I like it here, I like the situation I'm in, the system, coaching staff," Thomas said. "Organization's been great to me. If things work out I would love to be here. You just never know. With free agency you've got to keep your options open. I have no complaints since I've stepped foot and put a Laker uniform on."
This summer the Lakers will take big swings in free agency in hopes of luring players who will garner maximum contracts and start for them. If they can't add those players this summer, they plan to save salary-cap space to have the ability to do that next summer. That means it's possible they'd only be willing to offer Thomas a one-year deal, like they offered players last summer.
"Obviously I want to make a lot of money, but I want to be where I'm wanted at and where the team wants me to be who I am," Thomas told The Times. "And that's being an All-Star. Being a special guard in this league."
Thomas said he wants a long-term deal in free agency, telling NBA.com's Shaun Powell: "I’m looking to sign a long-term deal this summer but anything can happen. I can’t control it and can’t worry too much about it. I was only in Sacramento for three years, Boston for almost three years and the other stops were temporary. I’m looking hopefully to sign long term and call someplace home.”
In 31 games this season, Thomas is averaging 15.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg and 4.9 apg. He was acquired by the Lakers in a trade deadline-day deal with the Cavs.
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