Carmelo Anthony 'Happy' Isaiah Thomas Is Back in NBA After Signing Lakers Contract

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 20, 2021

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 19: Isaiah Thomas #31of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball during the game against the Chicago Bulls on December 19, 2021 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony said he's happy to see new teammate Isaiah Thomas playing again in the NBA.

"At times, it gets stressful. I'm sure you want to get down on yourself. As you can see, he was prepared for whatever moment," Anthony told reporters after Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bulls. "I'm just happy he's back in the league and it just happens to be with us."

Thomas played just three games in the NBA last season while on a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. His last regular playing time came early in the 2019-20 campaign with the Washington Wizards before he was waived following a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Having gone unsigned to open the current season, he joined the Grand Rapids Gold of the G League last week. It took him just one game with the Denver Nuggets' affiliate to prove he warranted another NBA look, tallying 42 points, eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and no turnovers in 42 minutes on Wednesday.

Thomas signed with the Lakers two days later and has played well across his first couple of appearances with the club.

The 32-year-old University of Washington product has recorded 32 points, five three-pointers, four rebounds, two assists and a block in 54 minutes for L.A., which is trying to overcome injuries and having players in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Thomas' first appearance was a road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He told reporters the crowd's reaction meant a lot:

"The dopest moment for me: when I checked in the game and they really cheered for me. This is an away game. Those moments mean more to me than anything just because people respect what I do and respect the grind I'm on, and I think me being 5'9'' helps. I'm the normal person's height. People cheer for me just because of that, but this whole situation, I'm so thankful for. I never thought I would feel this way again. I have no limitations with my body, with my hip, and that's why I just smile so much because I'm just in a great place mentally and a great place physically."

Thomas' best seasons came as a member of the Boston Celtics. He ranked eighth among all NBA players in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus in 2015-16 and finished fifth in MVP voting in 2016-17, when he averaged a career-high 28.9 points.

The two-time All-Star may no longer be the franchise building block he was during his peak seasons, but having recovered from a long-standing hip injury, he once again looks like a player who can make an impact in the NBA, potentially as a sixth man.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see him sign a full-time contract with the Lakers for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. He joined the squad on a 10-day deal under the hardship exception.

Up next for Los Angeles is a three-game homestand starting Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns and wrapping up Saturday with a Christmas Day clash against the Brooklyn Nets.