Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Isaiah Thomas has a simple explanation for the blockbuster February trade that resulted in him getting swapped for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
“It’s a business,” Thomas told ESPN during an interview for the network’s E:60 program. “And the Cavs were, I mean, they were in panic mode. We were losing—a lot. And I think they felt like they needed to make a move, and they, they basically cleared house.”
Thomas and Channing Frye were shipped to the Lakers, while the Cavs acquired Rodney Hood and George Hill in a separate three-way deal with the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings. The flurry of trades that saw the Cavs trade six players and a draft pick to bring in four new additions came shortly after the team posted a 6-12 record from Christmas through February 3.
A large portion of the blame fell on Thomas, who only logged 15 games with the Cavs after spending a significant portion of the season rehabbing from a hip injury. As the losses piled up, he reportedly called out Kevin Love, questioned his teammates’ effort, and implied the coaching staff failed to make adjustments. He also found himself on the wrong end of a hilarious meme.
“People don’t put in there that we had eight or nine new players,” Thomas added. “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.”
Much like Thomas, Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman has since conceded that the 2017 trade that initially brought Thomas to Cleveland while shipping Kyrie Irving to Boston was a bust.
“Did it fit? Did it work? Probably not,” Altman told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com shortly after trading Thomas and Frye to Los Angeles. “So with those pieces, we decided to shuffle the deck and get younger and get some youthful talent with energy and enthusiasm.”
Thomas finished fifth in MVP voting after the 2016-2017 season, and many around the league believe he’ll use his time with the rebuilding Lakers as an audition for a larger contract.
“Hopefully I’m here long term, you know, with me being a free agent this summer,” Thomas said. “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.”
Thomas’ full E:60 interview is scheduled to air March 11.