Find out how No. 22, who received a surprise birthday present on Thursday, plans to put on a show for Kings fans at All-Star Weekend.
Isaiah Thomas had six missed calls and hundreds of congratulatory text and Twitter messages by the time he checked his phone on Thursday evening, minutes after he was named to the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge in a surprise announcement on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”
“I was actually fixing something in my house … I was getting all these calls and I wasn’t answering,” revealed No. 22. “My business manager, Alonzo, called me, my agent called me and (Kings Head) Coach (Keith) Smart called me, so I knew something was up. I called them all back and they told me the great news.”
For Thomas, the selection was even more special because it came on his 24th birthday.
“I have a few birthday (presents) and cards from my mom and my dad, but I wasn’t expecting this,” said the second-year guard at a private party for Kings Partners, Suite Holders and Premium Ticket Holders at Mercedes-Benz of Sacramento. “I’m blessed.”
After initially being overlooked for the second consecutive season when the player pool was announced Jan. 30, the Washington product headed straight to the gym, motivated to work even harder to prove his doubters wrong.
“That was one of my individual goals this year, to play well enough to be selected,” said Thomas. “I was a little upset that I wasn’t selected when it first came out, but everything happens for a reason.
“Nobody thought the 60th pick would be in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star (Weekend). I’m always doubted, so it’s nothing new, but this does go a long way.”
Thomas – who’s averaging 12.7 points and 3.6 assists per game in 30 contests as a starter this season – is the 11th Kings player to participate in exhibition contest.
The point guard reveals being added to the pool by the game’s Honorary Commissioner and former Kings guard Kenny Smith and subsequently chosen by Hall of Famer Charles Barkley to Team Chuck was deeply humbling.
“It’s crazy,” he said smiling. “When they go over highlights on the show, if you played that night, for them to even say your name is a blessing. It shows that my talents are being (recognized).”
The Tacoma native hopes to follow in the footsteps of Kings teammate DeMarcus Cousins – who helped lead Team Chuck to a 146-133 victory in last year’s mid-season classic – in addition to putting on a high-flying show for his longtime supporters.
“First and foremost, (I want) to have fun, but to also get the win, no matter what,” said Thomas, adding his parents will be in attendance at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
“I’m going to bring out some tricks, and I’m going to try to get a few dunks. Kings fans have been on me about dunking this year, so I’m going to show them in that game.
Catch Thomas and Team Chuck take on Kyrie Irving and Team Shaq in the Rising Stars Challenge on Fri., Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. on TNT and ESPN Radio.
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Rising Stars Challenge Rosters:
|Damian Lillard (Portland)||Anthony Davis (New Orleans)|
|Kyrie Irving (Cleveland)||Kenneth Faried (Denver)|
|Andre Drummond (Detroit)||Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio)|
|Klay Thompson (Golden State)||Bradley Beal (Washington)|
|Harrison Barnes (Golden State)||Ricky Rubio (Minnesota)|
|Chandler Parsons (Houston)||Tristan Thompson (Cleveland)|
|Dion Waiters (Cleveland)||Nikola Vucevic (Orlando)|
|Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte)||Brandon Knight (Detroit)|
|Tyler Zeller (Cleveland)||Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento)|
|Kemba Walker (Charlotte)||Alexey Shved (Minnesota)|