Biggest stars don’t think little of Celtics diminutive guard Isaiah Thomas
NEW ORLEANS — One might expect fans to fawn over the accomplishments of Isaiah Thomas, but players generally can be counted on to be a bit more jaded.
NBA dribblers, particularly those who’ve earned the trip here for the All-Star Game, have seen measures of greatness in the mirror, and they’ve borne witness to amazing feats on a fairly regular basis. Such is life in the league.
But even among this crew, eyes were getting widened when the subject of Isaiah Thomas was raised yesterday.
Steph Curry evidently has been checking out the news as the point guard has shot his way into some all-time discussions for the franchise.
“Any time you can do things that haven’t been done in Celtics history?” said Curry. “Like how rich that history is? That speaks for itself.”
Thomas made it into this game last year, but this season he nearly arrived as a starter. The improvement has not gone unnoticed.
“His story is unbelievable,” said Curry. “You can talk about his height (5-foot-9), you can talk about him being the last pick in the draft, whatever. He’s a guy that’s taken the opportunity and ran with it. He’s been on, what, three different teams and has persevered through all that. You’ve got to have the ultimate confidence in yourself and your ability to do what he’s doing.
“It’s fun to watch, except when you’re trying to guard him.”
Those who watch closely have now put him into the Most Valuable Player debate.
“As he should,” Curry said. “There are so many guys that are doing special things this year, and he’s obviously one of them, and you can talk about who’s having the best year individually, this and that. He’s in that conversation.
“It’s fun to see guys — he didn’t come out of nowhere; he’s an NBA player that’s got amazing talent — but just the explosion this year and the run that he’s on, it’s been amazing to watch.”
Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook still lead that marathon, but the former knows Thomas is on the same road.
“For sure, man,” said Harden, adding, “He’s had so many different roles, from trying to make teams to trying to find minutes to sixth man and coming off the bench. Now he’s a starter and has his own team, and he’s excelled. He’s playing at a high level. His coach has confidence in him, and I’m sure his teammates do, as well. The city of Boston embraces him.”
It’s interesting to see how opponents seem to actually enjoy Thomas’ success.
“Man, he’s been great,” said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. “He’s played some amazing basketball. It’s really cool to see.
“He has the heart of a lion. It’s fun to play against him, because he doesn’t back down from any challenge, offensively or defensively. It’s amazing to see. It is.”
At 6-11, Jordan is a foot and two inches taller than Thomas, but he’s still wary of the Celtics guard’s drives.
“It’s tough, man,” Jordan said. “It’s tough, because you never know which way he’s going to go. He’s super crafty with the basketball. He can finish with the best of them at the basket. He’s just so crafty and his skill set is so high. He gives guys a lot of problems.”
Among the least surprised All-Stars at Thomas’ rise may be DeMarcus Cousins, who was a teammate on the Kings for Isaiah’s first three years.
“His work ethic is crazy,” said Cousins. “His confidence in himself is through the roof.
“What I respect about Isaiah is the fact that anything anybody has against him that he doesn’t agree with, he’s going to go out of his way to prove them wrong. And this is just another testimony to that.”
Utah’s Gordon Hayward offered more.
“He’s really, really hard to guard, especially with the way he’s shooting the ball this year,” he said. “He’s almost unstoppable at times in the game, especially, it seems like, in the fourth quarter, because he’s so quick and he can get around bigs and finishes really well in the paint. He can go under screens, and he shoots it. He’s a really tough guy to guard.
“He’s playing really well. You got a guy like that with his ability and his confidence level, like I said, he’s really tough to stop.”
And, apparently, easy to appreciate.