The Los Angeles Lakers swung a major trade at the deadline to acquire veterans Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye, plus a draft pick, and now they go about the task of incorporating their new additions to a young lineup known for playing at the fastest pace in the NBA.
Thomas, in particular, will be an interesting fit. He lit the NBA world on fire last season as an MVP candidate with the Boston Celtics, but struggled after an offseason trade that shipped him to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, Thomas is thoroughly enjoying his new team, and is looking to do his part in bringing about growth.
“One thing I want to do with this young talent is show them how to win and show them how to be professionals, show them how to work hard. They have everything else,” he said. “They’re talented. When you have fun with a group of guys, it makes it easier on the court.
“Since I got here, all they do is joke around and laugh. They’re so close, and that’s a good thing. That makes it easier on the floor when you go to battle. When you hit adversity, you don’t go your separate ways. You keep going. I think in this organization, everybody is here to play for each other and have a positive mindset.”
Thomas will have to figure out how to blend with the skills of injured point guard Lonzo Ball, who the Lakers hope to have back sometimes after the All-Star break. Despite playing the same position, there is confidence that the skill sets of Ball and Thomas will complement each other.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton is already thrilled with the impact that Thomas is having on his young team. “They’re going to be great for them. Isaiah, I saw in the game, he was coming off pick-and-rolls and telling guys where to be,” Walton explained.
“That type of leadership from a point guard position is going to be great for these other guys.”
Frye, for his part, is looking at the young Lakers through the eyes of a coach. At 34 years old and a former teammate of Walton’s during their collegiate days at the University of Arizona, Frye’s experience should prove valuable for a team that still has plenty of growing to do.
“The biggest thing you look for with a team like this is consistency, and then growth. Every day you want to consistently grow. You want to learn and you want the guys to not only be able to read defenses but to acknowledge what teams are giving,” Frye said.
“I think right now they’re still like, ‘OK, coach says do this, but this guy is doing this. Should I do what coach says, or should I just play basketball?’ That in-between is when these guys aren’t as successful.
“When they’re out there playing, working together, moving, they are extremely fast and athletic. They’re all very good and they’ve got a lot of talent. If these kids saw what I see in them, they would be pretty excited, because they are very, very good.”
Walton is already seeing Frye’s impact on the sidelines; specifically, because he always has something to say.
“Channing is great. He literally talks all day long. The guy never shuts up,” Walton said with a laugh.
“But it’s always positive and it’s always trying to help younger guys. He’s giving tips throughout the entire practice. Just a great guy to have around. I’m excited to have both of them as part of that process.”
While the Lakers still have a long way to go, as Frye notes, they do have an intriguing mix of young talent. One could argue that they are lacking a star, but their current core offers plenty of flexibility, which is becoming imperative in the modern NBA.
Players have to be well-rounded and possess the ability to fill a variety of roles on any given night, which is a quality that Frye has noticed with Ball ailing.
“You’ve got four guys, maybe five, that can pass, shoot, dribble, bring the ball up, screen and roll, finish around the rim, post up, and each one of them has their own individual pace. That’s hard to find in the league,” Frye said.
“A lot of guys are sort of robotic. Lonzo has his own quirky game, Kuz has his own kind of quirky, tweener game. I call him ‘sleepy,’ but Brandon has his own in-between (game). Is he a point guard? What is he? You look at Julius and even Josh, all of them can do a lot of different things. That’s going to help this team in the long run.”
With the All-Star break approaching, the Lakers will look to re-group before embarking on the home stretch of the 2017-18 NBA season.
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