NBA Q&A: Isaiah Thomas

Posted by Unknown on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 with No comments
Courtesy of James Herbert 

You got into basketball when you were 4 years old. Do you know what it was about the game? What started it?

My parents just said I just loved basketball. I always had a ball in my hands. But I also loved football growing up. Those were my two favorite sports. And then there came a point in time where basketball was more fun for me. It was somewhere I could be in the gym all day and have fun and never get bored with it. It's been a dream of mine since I was a little boy to play in the NBA, and I'm living the dream to this day.

Everybody knows your dad was a Laker fan, but you were in Seattle. How did that work? Were you a Laker fan?

I was a little brainwashed. My dad's from LA, so growing up in his house, I was a Laker fan. But I loved the Sonics, I loved Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The Glove and the Reign Man, those were my two favorite players. But growing up, like I said, I was in a Laker household and got brainwashed. My favorite player is Kobe Bryant. I like the Lakers.

It sucks. I mean, it doesn't suck I got drafted by the Kings, but that's their biggest rival, so you gotta watch what you say about the Lakers around Sacramento.

So when the Sonics played the Lakers, if you'd watch with your friends, was that a bit weird?

I would always be at the game actually. My dad would somehow find some tickets and I had a Laker warmup that I'd always go in. I had the Laker actual authentic warmups, the yellow jacket, the purple breakaway pants. Like I said, I was a Laker fan but I was also a Sonics fan. Just fun seeing Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, them guys in person.

I think everybody's seen the photo of you wearing Shaq's jacket. What's it like being able to actually know him on a personal level now?

It's crazy ‘cause the first time he had texted me, I didn't even know he had my number. And he gave me some advice. I'm like, 'Who's this?' He said, 'It's Shaq.' I'm like, 'It's Shaquille?' Like, I was still tripping out about it. But he's a great guy.

And it's crazy to even be in the same league as a guy like Kobe Bryant. My first real regular season game was against the Lakers, and when I first got in the game I had to guard Kobe Bryant for a few possessions. So things like that, it's a dream come true and it's a blessing from God to be in the position.

In an interview, you were asked who your biggest role model was, and I was expecting you to say one of the basketball players you knew growing up. You said your parents. What was it that made them role models?

They just taught me everything I know. Not on the basketball court, though. It's bigger than basketball. They taught me everything off the basketball court that I know about. Taking care of your responsibilities, growing into a man.

I have two kids, a year and a half apart. One's 3, one's 2. They've helped me so much just raising those boys. And my dad, just teaching me how to be a man and taking care of my responsibilities. My mom, just the same thing but on a different level when it comes to academics, when it comes to finishing school, when it comes to taking care of your house. Whatever it may be, those two people have helped me more than anybody in my life and I can't thank them enough.

When you have kids, does that make you think back to things your parents did to raise you and sort of change your perspective a little bit?

Yeah. I hated how my parents raised me ‘cause they were so strict, but now that I look back at it, it helped me so much. I've been on my own for a while and it's helped me more than they will ever know. Just how they were always on me about chores, about homework, about the littlest things, the smallest things.

Having kids just makes you think about more than yourself. It makes you think about how you got a whole life you gotta raise. Your kids are gonna be the definition of you.

Lots of guards in this league have trouble finishing at the rim. What is it that allows you to be able to finish so much better than a lot of guys who are 6 and 7 inches taller than you?

I think it's just a skill. I don't know what it is. I've always been short, so it's not like I'm making adjustments. It's just something I've learned to do since I was a little boy. I'm always going in there and finishing around the giants. It's something that I gotta do as a small guard, though. Like, I gotta be able to finish around them and make adjustments and things like that. But it's definitely a skill.

I mean, people ask me that a lot and I can't really tell ‘em how I do it. I just go in there and try to make adjustments in the air and get away from the shot blockers.

One thing I definitely do, I go in there with no fear. If I do get my shot blocked, I feel like you're supposed to do that and I'ma get back up and do it again.

I've never seen an interview with you where you haven't been smiling and friendly, but you've had a lot of losing in your career. Is it harder than we think or is it easy for you to stay positive?

It's hard. ‘Cause I'm not used to losing. And in my whole career in the NBA, I've lost. It's tough ‘cause I'm a winner, I've come from winning, I've always been a winner.

But at the same time, when you go out there and give it your all each and every night, you got to go home and you can't dwell on those moments. If you know that you gave it 110 percent, then that's all you can give. And it's a team sport, it's not an individual sport like tennis or something where you can really win on your own. You can't. Everybody has to be together.

We're trying to turn this around and if we just keep working and become a more consistent team, I think we can get more wins and turn it around.

You have DeMarcus [Cousins] on the block and Rudy [Gay] on the wing. Derrick [Williams] can score, Ben [McLemore] can score. What's it like being a scoring point guard and managing all that?

It's tough, but being a point guard in the NBA is a challenge. A big challenge I'm winning to accept. I want to be one of the best and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to be one of the best. I'm getting the opportunity right now to lead a team, an NBA team, and I'm doing the best I can possibly do and I'm learning. Each and every day, learning, learning. Getting better at picking and choosing my spots, when to be aggressive for myself and when to make plays for others.

It is difficult at times but I'm out there just trying to win. Trying to make the right play each and every possession and knowing who has the hot hand, knowing who we can go to and put those guys in the position to be successful.

Do you feel like a veteran yet?

I feel like I've been around a little bit, but not really a vet. I feel like a vet is a guy who's been in this thing seven, eight years. They try to say vets are three or four years, but I feel like you gotta be in the league longer than that. You gotta really see stuff to be a vet. Like a guy like Travis Outlaw, 10 years, 11 years in the NBA.

In January you and DeMarcus called a team meeting. If you're not a vet, do you see yourself as kind of a captain, as a leader? Is that something you wouldn't have done as a rookie, as a second-year player?

I've actually done that as a rookie. I've always been a leader, man. My dad told me when I was a little boy, 'Don't be a follower, be a leader.' Since then, every team I've been on, no matter how young I am, I've always been that leader. Vocal leader, lead by example, and I'm always gonna talk. I'm always gonna say how I feel and tell guys if they're doing wrong or not.

But at the same time, I'm holding myself accountable, too. I'm making sure these guys see that I'm working hard, that I'm the first guy in the gym. Trying to be the last guy out. Showing that you can hold me accountable for things, too.