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Isaiah Thomas Kings

January 25, 2012 by staff 

Isaiah Thomas KingsIsaiah Thomas Kings, Times columnist Steve Kelley thought former Washington guard Isaiah Thomas made a mistake when he decided last year to enter the NBA draft. He sees now that Thomas has proved him wrong. Kings rookie Isaiah Thomas, soaring to the hoop on Monday, says, “I’m motivated by the doubters.” Sacramento Kings rookie Isaiah Thomas, right, takes a tumble defending the Trail Blazers’ Gerald Wallace.

Keith Smart laughs as he tells the story. The Sacramento Kings’ coach sounds like a proud father talking about the day his son didn’t back down from the bully.

In a game earlier this month, Kings rookie Isaiah Thomas got caught in a switch and was forced to guard Orlando’s all-star big man Dwight Howard in the low post.

Howard is 6 feet 11. Thomas is 14 inches shorter. This wasn’t just David and Goliath. This wasn’t a mismatch. It was a can’t-miss match for Howard.

“Here Howard was with the ball, one of the best post-up players in the league, and Isaiah stayed right with him, defending Howard the same way he’d defend somebody his own size,” Smart said Monday night in the tunnel underneath Portland’s Rose Garden. “Isaiah held his ground until help came and we were able to get the ball out of Howard’s hands.”

It was the kind of play that describes the incandescent character of Isaiah Thomas, the former Washington guard, who left school last April after his junior season.

Thomas understands long odds. He’s used to people telling him what he can’t do. He thrives on proving people wrong.

“In that one play, you saw the confidence factor that he has,” Smart said. “You saw how he likes to compete and you saw how much workability he has.”

At the end of the third quarter of Monday’s game here, the Trail Blazers tried to isolate Jamal Crawford one-on-one against him.

Crawford calls Thomas his “little brother.” When Crawford, who played at Rainier Beach High School, was with the Knicks and Thomas was attending prep school in Connecticut, Thomas used to come into the city and sleep in Crawford’s guest room. Crawford often made the hour-and-a-half drive to watch Thomas play.

But as Crawford shoulder-shaked and flashed crossover dribbles in front of his little bro Monday, the Kings’ rookie stood his ground and finally flicked his hand at the ball and knocked it out of bounds with one-tenth of a second on the clock.

“He kept yelling at me, ‘I know those moves. I’ve seen ‘em a thousand times,’ ” Crawford said.

When Thomas declared for the draft, I thought it was a big mistake. I didn’t think he was ready for the NBA. I wasn’t sure he would get drafted. I figured he would spend this season playing in the D-League. I hoped he would like living in some place like Erie.

Wrong! The last player chosen in the 2011 draft, Thomas made the Kings’ roster and is averaging 5.9 points and 15.1 minutes.

“I just had a lot of confidence in myself that I could perform at a high level,” Thomas said. “I knew what I was getting myself into.

“I felt like there was nothing left that I could do in college to prove myself. What I proved from January to March, when (Abdul) Gaddy got hurt, was that I could play the point if I was given the chance. I could be the point guard they wanted me to be. I think I proved enough.”

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