Isaiah Thomas is one of the hottest names in Sacramento. Washington Huskies fans have been following his story with wild anticipation, knowing what he can do on the court. It was last night when Thomas showed Sacramento why Mr. Irrelevant isn’t so irrelevant at all, putting up an impressive stat line of 23 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, and a block.
Bryan Rosa from ARoyalPain.com, a Sacramento Kings site, has taken the time to answer a few questions about Thomas and the fans perspective on him. I also threw in a question about the current financial situation of the Kings ownership at the bottom.
1. What were your thoughts when Isaiah Thomas was picked as the final pick in the draft and for the Kings?
You know, I (among many others) were actually very excited that the Kings lucked into Thomas. There were actually quite a few of us that really wanted Thomas, but, most of us didn’t think he’d last until our final pick after we drafted Honeycutt earlier in the second round. I had three guys on my wishlist for the second round – Honeycutt, Justin Harper and Thomas. Once we took Honeycutt and Harper was taken, I didn’t think there was anyway that IT would last – thankfully for the Kings, he did.
2. At what point was the fan-base first excited about Thomas?
Very early! With Sacramento being somewhat in Pac-12 country, he was well known by name and game already – say as opposed to Thomas being drafted by a Eastern Conference team. IT was impressive out of the gate for the Kings, not just in-game action but as a person. He carries himself so well – he’s fantastic in the community – he’s what you want as a player on your team. Then as far as his on-court performances – if you want to endure yourself to Sacramento King fans, the best way is to play balls out: diving on the court, playing every minute like it’s your last, etc – and that’s exactly how Thomas plays. He was a fan favorite immediately before ever stepping on the court and after he did that? King fans just fell in love with the guy.
3. What were the expectations of fans for him?
I think they were tempered obviously – I mean, you don’t see second rounders come into the NBA and play a big role, let alone the final pick of the draft. You just hope at some point they eventually make the rotation and you get value out of that pick. Add in the addition of Fredette, I really wasn’t sure he’d see more than maybe 5-7 minutes a game when the season started. Now, he’s essentially forced the Kings to put him in the starting lineup because of his strong play.
4. Are fans hoping he stays as the starting point guard?
There’s no doubt about it – Thomas on the court makes the Kings a better team, be that as a starter or as a reserve. One problem the Kings have continually had all season is falling into big deficits early, which is why I believe Smart inserted Thomas into the starting lineup initially – hoping to avoid doing just that. Two games into it – they’ve avoided digging that hole early, despite no wins in those games. I’m still not sure how effective Tyreke Evans will be at small forward, which is where he’s forced to play with Thomas at the point (assuming they have a three guard lineup on the floor) – but that says more about the lineup issues the Kings have than Thomas. Fans are beyond pleased with IT as the starting point and I imagine he’ll be doing so for the foreseeable future.
5. Why do you think he has been successful at rising from Mr. Irrelevant to starting PG?
I think it’s actually been a perfect storm for IT. The Kings are a team in need of a floor leader. Good as Tyreke Evans can be, he just doesn’t have that ability to lead a team in regards to how a typical traditional point guard can. Outside of Evans, the Kings really have nobody on the roster who can play PG. They have some guys who can handle the ball, like a Fredette or a Garcia – but Jimmer is fresh meat, still in the initial stages of learning to play NBA point guard and Garcia’s essentially out of the rotation – so for Thomas, assuming he showed he could play the role – it was begging to be taken. Once he was given the chance, he didn’t look back. On another team which had some semi-solid floor generals, he might not have been able to crack the rotation to show his abilities – but with a team so stretched for a point guard, his game fit the Kings perfectly.
6. What are the typical fans thoughts of him?
King fans are super loyal – they’re a rare breed. With no other professional sports in Sacramento, the Kings literally are the heart and soul of the city and the surrounding areas. Becoming a fan favorite in Sacramento is a special thing for players – you hear about former players (both All-Star level and bench players) praise King fans for their universal love and the way they treat their “own”, if you will. I think IT’s quickly climbing his way into the top rungs of all-time fan favorites, already.
7. What do you see as his role going forward?
Well, I think there are a couple factors that could play in – namely the trade deadline and can the Kings get away with a three guard starting lineup (Evans, Thornton, Thomas). Those are questions that will be answered in due time, but, I think it’s pretty clear that Thomas has certainly cut out a niche on this Kings roster and despite if he’s starting or coming off the bench, he’s going to be getting significant minutes for the rest of the season.
8. Isaiah Thomas aside, do you think Sacramento is able to keep the Kings?
As crazy as it sounds – it’s literally going to be determined later this month (Feb 28th) when the City Council will approve or decline the financing plan for the new arena. If it’s approved, then yes, they’re going to be staying in Sacramento – if not, well, let’s just say it would be more than devastating and they’d have a foot out the door. I don’t want to say 100% they’re gone – but, the outlook would be very bleak.
Thanks Bryan! Be sure to check out ARoyalPain.com for more on Isaiah Thomas and the Sacramento Kings.