It had been a while since Isaiah Thomas had a game like Tuesday’s against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Sacramento Kings point guard provided a much needed spark off the bench, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting in just 21 minutes of action.
“I feel like I’m back to my old self,” said Thomas to a small scrum of media following practice yesterday. “I know what I need to do. I watched a lot of film, talked to a few people.”
But before that performance, Thomas admitted he hadn’t been himself lately. After averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 assists in 25.5 minutes per game last year, the Kings guard has seen a decline in his numbers this season. In 12 games played, Thomas is playing five fewer minutes (20.4), scoring less (8.8) and averaging a paltry number of assists (2.1) per contest.
What’s been the problem? The Kings guard confessed to thinking too much, rather than playing with his instincts, which was a key element to making him the steal of last year’s NBA Draft.
“No matter if I start or if I come off the bench,” said Thomas. “I gotta know I gotta bring energy and I gotta be me on the offensive end. I just did that in the second half and it worked a little bit.”
Thomas began the season as the Kings starter at point guard. However, he lost his job five games ago to veteran teammate Aaron Brooks. As a starter, Thomas was averaging 10.8 points but dishing out just 1.9 assists in 23.4 minutes per game.
Brooks and Jimmer Fredette haven’t made it easy for the 23-year-old guard to claim a strangle-hold of the Kings’ point guard situation. Brooks’ experience along with Fredette’s steadier play this season have forced Kings coach Keith Smart into basically playing a point guard by committee.
Though his play may suggest otherwise, Thomas claims he wasn’t looking over his shoulder while owning the starting gig. He wasn’t going to get caught using that as an excuse for his early season struggles.
“At the beginning we (were) playing even minutes – all of us,” said Thomas. “So it’s like you didn’t know when you were coming out; you don’t know when you’re going back in. But at the same time, you just gotta play. No matter what it is.”
Instead, Thomas insists that inconsistent playing time caused him to overthink his game. Not knowing if he would play minor or major minutes elicited the sophomore guard to press with his contributions as soon as he’d take the floor.
But with all three guards playing at a relatively similar level right now, the minutes will likely continue to fluctuate for Thomas as the season progresses. Unless Smart tightens his rotation sometime soon, all he can do is keep himself ready.
“If you’re in there for one minute, 20 minutes, you just gotta bring it,” Thomas said. “And I told myself if I’m there for, like I said, one minute or 20 minutes, I’m going to make that the most exciting 20 minutes of the game. So, I know what I gotta do and I just gotta play.”