John Wooden, one of the greatest to ever coach the game of basketball, once said, “It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play.”
Right now, there is nobody in the NBA proving that to be true than Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. Thomas has flown a bit under the radar this season, but that’s going to change this weekend. The Eastern Conference Player of the Week will show off his skills at the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto — both in the actual game and at the Skills Challenge.
Thomas is a 5’9” point guard from University of Washington. After playing at Washington for three years, he left for the NBA. He was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 60th — and final — pick in the 2011 draft. In his rookie season, Thomas finished seventh in Rookie of the Year voting. Not bad for the last pick! After playing the 2014-2015 season with the Phoenix Suns, Thomas took his first trip to the NBA All-Star Weekend and became the shortest player ever to participate in the Skills Challenge.
The Suns traded Thomas to the Celtics in February 2015, and in Boston, he continued to improve. Heading into the All-Star break, Thomas helped Boston post a 5-1 record and leads the team with 21.5 points and 6.6 assists per game.
When Thomas steps on the court for the All-Star Game, he will be the lowest-drafted All-Star since the NBA Draft moved to a two-round system in 1989. He also ties Calvin Murphy as the shortest all-star.
But before the game, Thomas will compete with some incredibly talented — and incredibly big — players in the NBA All-Star Game Skills Challenge on Saturday night. It’s a timed “obstacle course” consisting of a series of passes, free throws, lay-ups and agility drills. The field this year consists of C.J. McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers, Jordan Clarkson of the Los Angeles Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings, Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. They will all try to outdo last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets.
For Thomas, though, he’ll also have to deal with being in the brightest spotlight of his pro career. He clearly deserves the recognition — even if it took a while for people to see his talent among the taller NBA crowd.
Photo: Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images (action), Charles Krupa/AP (jersey)