Photo by Ron Nabity
Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on Feb. 11, 2013
Kings’ point guard Isaiah Thomas is taking advantage of his increased playing time, after spending much of the season in a three-man point guard rotation.
Earlier this month, Sacramento head coach Keith Smart made the decision to use primarily Thomas and Jimmer Fredette as his two point guards, fellow point guard Aaron Brooks to become an observer from the bench for the majority of the time. In fact, Brooks has tallied just 14 minutes of playing time in the last four games including three games where he did not see the floor at all.
Thomas has responded by producing the same types of plays that earned him the starting job last season after he was drafted 60th overall out of the University of Washington, the very last pick in the draft.
Since the start of the month, Thomas has averaged 19.4 points, 4.6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game.
Thomas’ play Sunday night in the Kings’ 117-111 win against the Houston Rockets was another reminder of the energy he brings to the team. Trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, the “Hustling Husky,” as TV broadcaster Jerry Reynolds calls him, put the team on his back by slashing through the Houston defense and scoring 17 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter.
“I wanted to force the issue when I got back in the fourth quarter because I felt like the first three quarters I really wasn’t being aggressive, not just for myself but the [team], make plays for others,” Thomas said after the game. “I felt like there was no other time to do it than the fourth quarter. We were down when I came in and we had to push it so we did a good job of that and guys got some energy off of me just trying to be everywhere on the floor.”
On top of his 23 points, Thomas also racked up six assists, one rebound and two steals.
Thomas helped the team push the tempo in the fourth quarter, something that Smart wants to see more of with the rest of the season.
“He’s definitely pushing it. He’s definitely pushing the tempo. I see him pushing the ball, so that’s good for us. We are able to get the ball up and down the court,” Kings forward John Salmons said of the young point guard. “If he can continue to push the plays like he’s doing and getting us to run, we’ll play better basketball. We move the ball better when we run like that.”
Smart installed an 11-second shot clock for practices in an effort to get his team running the floor more.
Smart and his players know that they must play up-tempo, as it gives them the best chance to succeed with their young team.
“It’s hard for a team to stop us when Isaiah is playing like that,” Kings veteran Francisco Garcia said. “He runs the floor and was shooting the ball good tonight.”
Though Thomas has always been a scorer, averaging 16.4 points per game in college, he knows that as a point guard he needs to do what is best for the team at that time.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m going to just try and make the right play each and every time,” Thomas said of his game. “If that’s to score, I’m going to do that. If that’s to assist somebody, I’m going to do that.”
Thomas’ play has earned him an appearance in the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, a game played in Houston on Friday with former players Shaquille O’Neal coaching one team and Charles Barkley on the other. Thomas was selected by Team Chuck.