Isaiah Thomas reacts to winning his second-straight Western Conference Rookie of the Month award. Plus, Coach Smart talks about IT earning more responsibility on the floor.
For the second-consecutive month, guard Isaiah Thomas was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month, joining Lionel Simmons and teammate Tyreke Evans as the only Kings players to receive the honor twice in one season.
“I didn’t expect to get awards like this, but I always expected it if I got the opportunity,” said Thomas before the Kings withstood the Wolves 116-108 Monday night. “The coaches have given me a big opportunity and a big chance, and I’m trying to do the best I can to take full advantage of it.”
For the month of March, Thomas ranked second among rookies in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game, and led all first-year players in assists, dishing 4.9 dimes per game. No. 22 also led all NBA freshmen in fastbreak points, scoring 64, and free-throws made, connecting on 54.
The University of Washington product also produced some of his best performances of the season during his second award-winning month, including outstanding displays against All-Star opponents.
In Sacramento’s 113-97 thumping of the reigning NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, Thomas tallied 14 points and distributed five assists while limiting Jason Kidd, who stands seven inches taller, to six points and two turnovers.
A week later, No. 22 notched his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 assists in a 120-95 home rout of the Boston Celtics, while holding Rajon Rondo to only four points.
The 5-foot-9 guard followed up his stellar outings against the Mavs and Celtics with another double-double almost two weeks later, notching a career high 28 points to go along with 10 assists against the San Antonio Spurs, a game in which he helped contain MVP candidate Tony Parker, who scored just 10 points and committed three turnovers.
Last Friday, Thomas again proved instrumental as he scored 19 points, handed out six assists and pulled down four rebounds while limiting Devin Harris to 11 points, as Sacramento topped Utah 104-103 in front of a raucous Jazz crowd.
Along with his thrilling performances and growing collection of League accolades, the young Kings leader is continually gaining more trust from Kings Coach Keith Smart.
“(Coach Smart) is kind of letting me figure out stuff on my own. When he sees something he tells me, but it’s not as much as it used to be,” says Thomas. “Every dead ball I used to go over and talk to him and now he doesn’t even look at me. He doesn’t want to tell me anything, so he lets me figure things out, and that’s when you know he’s starting to trust me more.”
“I’m very seldom coaching him now on the floor,” says Smart. “I’ve kind of allowed him to look at what he wants to do. Sometimes I will say something, because he’s still not there (as to) where he can manage the whole game, and I may drop something into his ear, but overall I think he’s just doing a good job of trying to manage the team and communicate to the team at all times.”
Smart says that Thomas’ work ethic and drive to succeed in the Association is a big reason for his well-earned on-court freedom.
“I just think he became a huge student. The guy simply has a thirst for trying to be good in the NBA,” said Smart. “The way he came into camp, (with a back-up label), the young guy said, ‘That’s not me. I want to play and move up, and I want to be a starter in the NBA.’ And he just kept getting better and better and better every single game and every single day – and before you knew it – you could not deny him being on the floor, you had to have him on the floor.
“He’s just going to keep growing.”
Now armed with two Rookie of the Month awards, Thomas continues to build a strong case for end-of-the-season awards.
“(Cleveland Cavaliers guard) Kyrie Irving is far ahead of the pack, but anything can happen,” said Thomas. “I’m going to try my best to finish this season off in a great way – individually and team-wise – and see what happens at the end.”
No. 22 now has 13 more games to show the rest of the nation what Sacramento already knows: Thomas deserves consideration for Rookie of the Year and First Team All-Rookie honors.
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