EL SEGUNDO – Isaiah Thomas may have been traded to a Los Angeles Lakers team that is nine games under .500 and not in immediate position to make the playoffs. But he has other ideas.
“All I know is win,” Thomas said after Monday’s practice. “All I know is how to play to win, and I’m going to try to instill that into these young guys and just give it all you got, leave it all out on the floor and have fun doing it. … It’s time to win now. Why wait? We wanna win now and we wanna have fun doing it.”
Thomas is a seven-year veteran in the NBA. President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson said recently that he expects Thomas to be a mentor for rookie Lonzo Ball.
Thomas seemingly wants to extend that mentorship to rest of the Lakers’ young core with a lofty goal in mind: make the playoffs this season.
“I’m always a guy that I don’t fit in, I stand out,” Thomas said. “I’ve always had that attitude. I’m gonna do what I can do this team win games because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about.”
Channing Frye, who was also part of the trade that brought Thomas and him to Los Angeles from Cleveland, said his mentality has shifted since joining the Lakers. Although he contended for an NBA championship as a member of the Cavaliers, Frye will now focus on also being mentor to the younger Lakers players.
Frye said he talked to his wife on Sunday about the change in mindset, and wondered what was going to be the thing that get him locked in to the remainder of the season.
“It’s just the experience of helping these kids grow,” Frye said. “It’s the experience of winning, the appreciation of winning.”
Frye said some his best years in the NBA were while he played for teams that did not have particularly high exceptions. He has already won one championship, and seems now to prioritize connections he can make with teammates.
“It’s exceeding expectations, having fun, growing and having relationships that I still have with guys on the court,” Frye said. “Winning a championship is a lot. I got one. But at the end of the day, it’s really about the relationships you have with the guys and winning in a good way.”
Frye did not play in Sunday’s 130-123 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. But he saw the potential of the young Lakers, particularly with the versatility of players like Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle.
“If they saw what I see in them,” Frye said, “they would be pretty excited because they are very good. They are very, very good.”
Ball participated in all of Monday’s practice except the full-contact portion.
“He looked good,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said.
There still exists no official timetable for Ball’s return to the floor. Walton has maintained that once Ball gets through an entire practice unhindered, he should be cleared to play in a basketball game.
Ball has missed 13 straight games with a left MCL sprain. Walton said Monday’s practice marked the first time Ball participated with the tea since suffering the injury on Jan. 13. But trainer Marco Nunez has still not cleared Ball for full-contact drills.
Walton added that acquiring Thomas had nothing to do with the caution he and the team are taking with Ball’s recovery.
“We were gonna be patient with Lonzo no matter what,” Walton said. “Being a rookie point guard that we know is gonna be a huge part of our future, we’re not gonna risk that to try to get him back earlier than he’s ready to.”