Can Isaiah rediscover his All-Star form with Lakers?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports / Action Images

Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton had a clear message for his new point guard shortly after he joined the team.

"He wants me to be me," Isaiah Thomas told Lakers reporter Mike Trudell before his L.A. debut.

Thomas was just that against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night, registering an efficient 22 points, six assists, and a steal in 31 minutes off the bench.

The 29-year-old floor general needed little time to find his rhythm, drilling his first shot moments after checking in.

It was the first of several glimpses of what Thomas can accomplish with the purple and gold.

Coming off a campaign in which he finished fifth in MVP voting, the diminutive guard has struggled, to say the least. He was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer and missed the first 36 games of the season while recovering from a hip injury. He suited up in just 15 contests before being dealt to L.A. ahead of Thursday's trade deadline.

YEAR TEAM G MIN FG% 3P% FT% REB AST TOV PTS
2016-17 BOS 76 33.8 46.3 37.9 90.9 2.7 5.9 2.8 28.9
2017-18 CLE 15 27.1 36.1 25.3 86.8 2.1 4.5 2.7 14.7

Thomas, who was in line for a huge payday this summer after being on one of the NBA's best bargain deals, has seen his value plummet over the past several months given the concerns surrounding his injury and whether he can return to his MVP-caliber form.

With each passing day in Cleveland, his request that his next team "bring the Brinks truck out" seemed less realistic. Now that he's joined the Lake Show, though, he has a chance to recoup some value before hitting unrestricted free agency.

The seven-year pro said himself that Los Angeles' offense plays to his strengths. Walton's squad leads the league in pace, playing free, uptempo basketball and running plenty of pick-and-rolls.

Thomas' quick-trigger three, seen earlier, came off a Brook Lopez screen, and he continued to connect with the big man throughout the game. In 15 games with the Cavaliers, the feisty point man attempted just seven total shots off screens, per NBA Advanced Stats. He'll get many more of those looks with his new club.

Overall, Thomas' offense looked solid in Dallas. He was aggressive in driving to the hole and either finishing at the rim, handing off to a big inside, or kicking out to an open shooter. He fired on open looks - and looked comfortable doing so - within the flow of the offense, while also looking to facilitate for his teammates as the only real playmaker available in Lonzo Ball's absence.

IT certainly looked rejuvenated as he poured in more points in his first half as a Laker (16) than in any half with the Cavs. It's unclear when Ball will return from his MCL injury, so his backup should continue to have ample opportunity to run the offense and return to form.

His defense, however, continues to be problematic, as he was getting torched by Dallas' guards, especially rookie Dennis Smith Jr., and was lucky Dirk Nowitzki missed wide-open looks when switched onto him. The two-time All-Star's 5-foot-9 frame obviously limits him at that end, but his effort level is the bigger issue there. The Lakers, a top-10 defensive team, can mask Thomas' weakness, but as long as he's on the floor, the focus will be to outscore opponents, which is fine by him.

When he was in Cleveland, the high-volume scorer's shot selection was criticized, prompting him to ask: "What did you trade me here for? To not shoot? To not find my rhythm? To not be Isaiah Thomas?"

Fortunately for him, Isaiah Thomas is exactly who the Lakers want him to be.

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Can Isaiah rediscover his All-Star form with Lakers?
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