When the NBA announced the participants in the annual rookie/sophomore game last week, Thomas was noticeably left off the list. Yesterday, the Kings guard shockingly found out he was going to Houston after all when TNT analyst Kenny Smith added him and Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio to the game’s pool of players.
The Kings starting center is “very excited” his second-year teammate will get to showcase his talent next Friday in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge.
“Isaiah’s one of those players that goes under the radar that works incredibly hard and doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” said Cousins of his starting point guard following practice Friday. “So him being a part of the game, I’m extremely happy for him.”
Thomas becomes the 11th player in Kings’ franchise history to participate in the annual game featuring first and second-year players. In 47 contests this year, 30 of which he’s started, Thomas has averaged 11.6 points and 3.2 assists in 24.3 minutes per game.
Cousins found out Thomas would be playing in next week’s game like everyone else. He was home, watching Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, the game’s honorary general managers, pick their teams on TNT.
“I think I knew before Isaiah,” said Cousins, who immediately texted Thomas when he heard the news. “With his name being on the board, I knew he was going to be a part of the game.”
The Kings starting center wasn’t happy when Thomas was initially snubbed from the game and blamed his exclusion squarely on the organization last week. The 24-year-old guard knew of his teammate’s frustration.
“That’s like my right-hand guy,” Thomas said of Cousins. “He’s a guy that supports me just as much as I support him and he’s happy for me. I mean, he was very upset when I didn’t make it, but it is what it is. It happened and I’m blessed to be in the position to go to All-Star Weekend.”
While Cousins and Thomas found out the news watching TNT’s pregame show, Kings coach Keith Smart knew well ahead of the broadcast that his starting guard was headed to Texas. Before practice yesterday, Smart got a call from the league notifying him that Thomas was invited to the game.
“Well, (we) had a little inkling that something was bubbling here and there,” Smart said when asked if he was surprised by Thomas’ late addition. “But you know, you never know. People conversate and stuff like that, but you never know if it’s going to come to fruition. And it did for him.”
With the Kings in the midst of another disappointing season and surrounded by the specter of relocation to Seattle, Thomas’ rookie/sophomore recognition is one positive the team can hang its hat on.
“Isaiah’s one of those players that never takes no for answer,” Cousins said. ”And he’s going to continue to work. Everything he gets, he deserves.”
UW Reunion on All-Star Saturday Night?
Terrence Ross, Thomas’ old teammate at the University of Washington, is also headed to Houston. The Toronto Raptors rookie is among the six players participating in the annual slam dunk contest.
Could a UW reunion be in the works for All-Star Saturday Night? Thomas wouldn’t rule out assisting Ross in the contest.
“I mean if he wants me to,” Thomas said with a smile when asked if he’s open to reunite with his former Huskies teammate on All-Star Saturday. “I mean, I threw him a few alley-oops back in college.”
Ross is in a field that includes Eric Bledsoe of the Clippers, Kenneth Faried of the Nuggets, James White of the Knicks, Gerald Green of the Pacers and last year’s champion Jeremy Evans of the Jazz. Though the list of high-flyers includes a few previous champs, the Kings point guard thinks the odds are in Ross’ favor.
“So I got my money on him,” Thomas added. “He’s definitely going to win the slam dunk contest. He has some things up his sleeve.
“But you guys tell him if he needs me out there,” he continued. “I’ll give him a few passes like back when we played together.”
Maybe the Raptors rookie could jump over Thomas for a dunk?
“He probably wouldn’t get a 50 if he’s jumping over me though,” the 5’9 point guard said with a laugh.