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No. 22 Earns Praise From Teammates

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Filed under All-Star Weekend, Analysis, Big Post, Hoops.

No. 22 Earns Praise From Teammates

DeMarcus, Tyreke, Marcus and more react to the exciting news that Isaiah Thomas will represent the team at All-Star Weekend. Plus, get details on how to catch the guard in action.

DeMarcus Cousins was one of the first to congratulate Isaiah Thomas on his Rising Stars Challenge selection after watching the surprise announcement on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” last Thursday.

“I think I knew before Isaiah,” said Cousins.

“Isaiah’s one of those players who works incredibly hard and doesn’t get the credit he deserves. So, him being a part of the game, I’m extremely happy for him.”

When Thomas entered the Kings Practice Facility on Friday morning, he was enthusiastically greeted by teammates, coaches and trainers, who praised his play and wished him luck at 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend.

“Everybody said, ‘Congratulations,’” said the point guard smiling. “This team is very supportive of each other and I’m glad I’m here.”

Jason Thompson was pleased the second-year guard’s diligent work ethic and all-around improvement didn’t go unnoticed by the game’s Honorary Commissioner Kenny Smith and General Manager Charles Barkley.

“He was in a tough situation being the last pick in the Draft, but he never put his head down and has always been working hard since Day 1,” said Thompson. “The results show, so I’m glad he’s representing our team.”

Tyreke Evans, who was selected to the 2010 and 2011 midseason exhibitions, was similarly excited the sophomore star earned the prestigious invite.

“He deserves it and I’m happy for him,” said Evans. “It shows that you have to keep working hard no matter what. He just came in and showed people he (shouldn’t have been) the last pick, basically.”

While Thomas says his main goals are to have fun and help lead Team Chuck to victory, Kings players and coaches are certain the 5-foot-9 standout has the skill set and drive to capture MVP honors in a high-scoring affair perfectly tailored to his strengths.

“I think it’s his type of game,” said No. 13, who hoisted the event’s MVP trophy three years ago. “I hope he brings something back to Sac.”

“The things he does are unlike any small man in this league,” added James Johnson. “He penetrates against 7-footers, bypasses shot-blockers and runs this team well, so he can definitely go and get (MVP).”

Head Coach Keith Smart believes Thomas – who is averaging 19.4 points and 4.6 assists over his last five games – will be highly motivated to shine in front of his peers and parents in Houston, Texas.

“I think he will be proving for the rest of his career he belongs, and when you have that kind of chip on your shoulder … (you) can become a really good player in the League,” said the Kings coach.

“I think he can (succeed in the Rising Stars Challenge) because when you’re playing the (point guard) position, you have the ball and you have a chance to make more of an impact on the game than, say, a center does.”

In addition, Smart expects No. 22 to gain valuable insight from the experience, which will help him further develop into one of the NBA’s top floor generals.

“You’ll start to see that sometimes you may think the superstars are not paying much attention to you, but all of a sudden you walk by one of them and they pat you on the back,” he said. “That can go a long way for a young player to grow.

“I shared with him, ‘Although you’re going for the rookie-sophomore (game), you’re going to be around all the stars and all the big-time players. Be who you are, showcase your leadership in those settings, enjoy the moment and keep growing.’”

Thomas’ coaches and teammates will be glued to the TV when the Tacoma native and Team Chuck tip-off against Damian Lilliard and Team Shaq on Friday.

“I definitely will be watching,” said Marcus Thornton. “I’m going to be rooting for him the whole time. I told him to go out there and just play and have fun. It’s a moment that lasts for a lifetime.”

Free Throws

- Vote daily to help Thomas earn a starting spot on Team Chuck: Vote Now.

- Catch the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. PST on TNT and ESPN Radio, and discuss the action in real-time with Kings fans worldwide by joining the Kings.com Live Chat from the Toyota Center.

- Stay current with Kings.com and the team’s social networks to get an in-depth look at All-Star Weekend’s fun-filled events.

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