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Lakers’ Isaiah Thomas doesn’t regret playing through injury, expects to be healthy by free agency

Isaiah Thomas approached, using one crutch to help him walk, a little over a week after having arthroscopic hip surgery. He had the injury fixed on March 28 of this year, though he suffered it in March 2017. In fact, he kept playing basketball for two more months after that, helping the Boston Celtics — a team that traded him once they understood the extent of the injury — to the Eastern Conference finals.

You’d forgive Thomas for having some regrets. When he looks back, though, he says playing basketball helped him through one of the most difficult times in his life. His sister, Chyna, died in a car crash last April.

“I was going through something way bigger than basketball, so basketball was the only thing that can really numb that at that point in time,” Thomas said. “I don’t regret it. It is what it is. I can’t control that. You can say yes, I wish there was a better decision made on both sides but at the same time it is what it is, I can only control so much. …

“That was the only thing, basketball was the only thing to keep my mind off of something so big.”

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Thomas returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday after having the hip surgery in New York. After the surgery, the Lakers announced that Thomas would need four months to heal. Still, he said he has no concerns about being able to present himself on the free-agent market, which will open in July.

“The results will show that the surgery only fixed it,” Thomas said. “The world knew that I never got my labrum fixed when I was going through that and trying to heal on my own. So, it is not like the injury got worse and something else popped up and I needed to get something done. The decision that I made, it felt like it was the best decision for me personally, individually, as a basketball player for the rest of my career.”

Thomas has been traded twice since the injury. The Celtics traded him to Cleveland, where he spent most of his time rehabbing the injury. He had hoped a conservative approach, without surgery, would be enough.

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He continued to deal with pain after his return, playing 15 games for the Cavaliers before they moved him to the Lakers at the trade deadline.

“I came in here with, I had nothing on my agenda and nothing in my plans,” Thomas said. “I just wanted to play basketball and get that joy back, and being on the Lakers brought that joy back from having a tough couple of months in Cleveland.”

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Twitter: @taniaganguli

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