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NBA AM: Thomas Ready for Kings’ PG Battle
Posted By Alex Kennedy On September 26, 2013 @ 9:11 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
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Thomas Ready to Battle for Starting Job
When Isaiah Thomas found out that the Sacramento Kings had acquired Greivis Vasquez in a three-team trade with the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers, he immediately drove to a Seattle gym for an intense workout. Thomas knows that the acquisition of Vasquez means that the starting point guard job is up for grabs in Sacramento and that he’ll have to work hard if he wants to win the position battle.
Thomas, who was drafted with the final selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, has exceeded all expectations in the first two years of his career. He emerged as the Kings’ starting point guard during his rookie season and has started 99 of 144 games in his two-year career. Last season, Thomas averaged 13.9 points, 4.0 assists and 1.8 turnovers while playing 26.9 minutes per game. The 24-year-old finished last season with an efficiency rating of 17.58.
Vasquez, who has now played for three teams in four years, is coming off of a breakout season in New Orleans. Playing as a full-time starter for the first time in his career last year, Vasquez averaged 13.9 points, 9.0 assists and 3.2 turnovers while playing 34.4 minutes per game. The 26-year-old finished last season with an efficiency rating of 16.34.
A case can be made for either player to be the starting point guard in Sacramento so new Kings head coach Mike Malone will have a tough decision on his hands. One thing is certain: Thomas isn’t going to lose his starting job without putting up a fight.
“Hopefully the position will be up for competition,” Thomas told HOOPSWORLD in a phone interview. “If it is, I’m going to be battling each and every practice, each and every workout, whatever. At the end of the day, we are teammates – myself, Greivis Vasquez, Ray McCallum and Jimmer Fredette – we’re teammates, but at the same time we’re competing too. At the end of the day, this a competition and I am going for that starting spot because I do feel like I’m a starting point guard in this league. I think the competition is going to make each of us better and make sure we’re competing every day in practice. We’re going to work hard.
“Whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, I can’t control that. I can only control me going out there and doing the best that I possibly can – giving it my all each and every night, each and every practice. I’m just going to be me. No matter what, whenever I step out onto that court, I’m going to be me and nobody’s going to take that from me.”
Not only does Thomas believe he’s the best floor general in Sacramento, he feels he can be one of the top point guards in the entire league.
“When given the opportunity, I can turn some heads and be one of the top point guards in the NBA,” Thomas said. “That’s just the confidence that I have in myself and because of all the hard work I put in each and every morning, each and every night and everything else. I feel like I can have a breakout year, but with the NBA it’s all about opportunity. If given that opportunity, a lot of people can play at a high level. I’m going to keep working and hopefully show the world what I’m all about. … Once I got an opportunity, I just took it and ran with it. I put the work in, so I believe I have enough ability to be one of the best point guards in the NBA. I’m not saying it’s going to happen overnight, but with the work I’m putting in, I can compete at a high level each and every night when given the opportunity. I think my ceiling is to the sky.”
Thomas has been doubted for much of his life, mainly because of his 5’9 frame. Despite an outstanding three-year collegiate career at Washington, Thomas was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2011 NBA Draft. He was the 15th point guard selected in the draft, and many of the players drafted ahead of Thomas are already out of the league. Because Thomas has always been overlooked, he has developed quite the chip on his shoulder. However, he possesses a seemingly unlimited supply of confidence and, because of this, has very high expectations for himself.
“With the work I’ve been putting in, I think I could be one of the best little guys ever to do it, honestly,” Thomas said. “I look up to guys like Damon Stoudamire, Isiah Thomas and Allen Iverson, some of the best ever, and those guys changed the game of basketball. I want to be another person that people look at and say, ‘Man, he’s a little guy, but he started all his career.’ Muggsy Bogues is another guy like that, who I look up to. I’m going to keep working. I know that great players come back each and every year with something different to their game, and I feel like I can do that too. I just want to be great. I want to learn from the top guys in the NBA, current point guards and retired point guards. I’d like to get to know John Stockton and get in contact with him, because he was one of the best point guards to ever play the game. I’d like to just pick his brain on where he was when he first came into the league because he was a small point guard too. I want to be the best and I’m willing to work to become the best. I’m going to do whatever it takes because I know I could be one of the top point guards in the NBA and one of the top little guys to ever play the game of basketball.”
This offseason, Thomas has been spending almost all of his time in the gym, determined to expand his game for the 2013-14 season.
“I’m in the best shape of my life right now,” Thomas said. “I wanted to be in really great shape coming into this year. The biggest thing I’ve been working on is my right hand – my moves going right, passing with my right hand, finishing with my right hand, things like that. I’ve been really focusing on trying to do things both ways, being able to do everything with my left and right hand. That’s the biggest thing I’ve been working on this summer, on top of everything else. I’ve just been trying to get better as an overall player and work on my right hand. Those are the things I’ve been really focused on.”
When discussing the future of the Kings, Thomas gets very excited. Going forward, the franchise should finally have some stability now that the team is officially staying in Sacramento and a new regime is in place. General manager Pete D’Alessandro and head coach Mike Malone are determined to change the culture around the organization and eventually turn the Kings into a contender.
Thomas has been working out with Malone and his staff in recent weeks and he’s thrilled about the hire and the overall direction of the team.
“Overall, he’s a great dude,” Thomas said of Coach Malone. “He’s been a great coach so far, from what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard. I’ve been in Sacramento about a month working out with him and the coaching staff. I love what I see. It seems that there really is a chance for Sacramento. Now I’m not saying that we’re going to win a championship next year, or even make the playoffs, but we’re definitely going to move forward and there’s going to be some positive things in the city of Sacramento. I’m excited for the future. I’m excited for Coach Malone because he’s a great guy and, overall, a great coach. I’m just excited for this season.”
Ben McLemore, the 20-year-old shooting guard who was selected seventh overall by the Kings in this year’s draft, has also been participating in the workouts. Thomas speaks highly of the rookie and believes he’ll have a very long and successful career in the NBA.
“He’s going to make my job a lot easier,” Thomas said of McLemore. “We’ve been working out the last couple of weeks, scrimmaging with ourselves. His catch-and-shoot game is unbelievable, those are going to be easy assists right there. If I’m looking for assists, I can just go to him. He’s going to be a great player. He’s still learning the game and he’s going to have his ups and downs this year, but at the same time, he has the potential to eventually be the top shooting guard in this league. He’s that good. He reminds me of a young Ray Allen, how he can just shoot it, how athletic he is. Once he figures out how to play shooting guard in the NBA, he’s going to be something.”
Whether Thomas will start alongside McLemore in the backcourt remains to be seen. Thomas and Vasquez are both very talented, which is why this should be one of the more intriguing position battles to watch as training camps get underway next week.
Bosh Not Focusing on Potential Free Agency
As the Miami HEAT prepare for the upcoming season, the biggest question surrounding the team isn’t whether they’ll win a third consecutive championship, but rather if this is the final year that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be in Miami. The three stars can test free agency next summer if they choose to exercise their early termination options.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Bosh told Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel. “I was like, ‘Man it’s been four years already?’ But we’re professionals. We know it comes with the job. We can’t do anything about it. We just have to make sure we take care of our business, stay together and just really answer the call to adversity when it comes.”
Bosh believes that if the HEAT are able to win a third straight championship, the team will stay together. If Miami isn’t able to get it done, Bosh believes that would increase the likelihood of the team breaking up.
“Everybody wants to know what we’re going to do [after the season],” Bosh said. “Yeah, I get it. Everything depends on this season. If we win, cool. If we lose, that’s when it’s like ‘What if?’”
“My family enjoys it here,” Bosh added. “I enjoy it here. It’s playing basketball in Miami. It’s just the best. I think all those intangibles speak for themselves. We’re really looking forward to just keeping it going.”
Bosh admits that he thinks about his upcoming free agency, but he tries not to focus on it too much otherwise it would affect his play.
“You think about it, but I’m mature enough to know that if I really start to think about it, I’m going to start playing bad,” Bosh said. “Things aren’t going to go right. I’m just going to enjoy today. I’m looking forward to having a big year this year. That’s all I think about. In Toronto, it kind of messed me up. I was thinking, ‘What is going to happen [in the offseason]?’ I started struggling and then I snapped back into basketball.”
Last season, Bosh averaged 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds – the lowest averages since his rookie season with the Toronto Raptors. The 29-year-old will make $19,067,500 this season. If he decides not to exercise his early termination option next season, he’ll remain with the HEAT and make $20,590,000. Bosh, James and Wade also have player options for the 2015-16 season.
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