Isaiah Thomas might be overlooked at times, but he doesn’t want his city being disrespected. To him, Seattle has the best guard talent of anywhere in the country, and if they put together a game (as they’re trying to), he thinks they could probably beat anyone. Besides just standing up for Seattle, Thomas is spending a lot of his summer working out with NBA vets like Jason Terry and getting advice from Damon Stoudamire to hopefully make it in the league with Sacramento.
“I’m just a sponge,” he says of his relationship with Dallas’ Terry. “Everything he says, I just take it all in.”
A few weeks ago, I spent the day out at Reebok Headquarters with Thomas, as well as Terry, Ramon Sessions, Jameer Nelson, John Wall and four high school standouts.
During my time with Thomas, he spoke on Seattle, learning from Stoudamire and being a left-handed player.
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Dime: Talk about your experience coming out here to an event like this, hanging out with younger kids trying to come up and make a name for themselves.
Isaiah Thomas: It’s a blessing man. Everybody is not in this position to come in here and a show company will have your pictures up here like this. I’ve been at Nike. I’ve seen Nike just because it’s in the northwest. But to be flown out here…Everybody’s polite to you. Everybody’s trying to talk to you and just happy to meet you. It’s new to me. So it’s just nice and a blessing for me to be around the older guys like Jason Terry, Jameer Nelson and then to be around the younger guys to look up to guys like me.
Dime: You’ve been working out with Jason for a long time. What are some of the things you’ve learned watching him and other pros?
IT: Just how hard they really work. A guy like him, he gets up at 6 a.m. Workout at 6:30. And then go again at night. For him to accomplish all that he’s accomplished in his career, to be an NBA champion still doing those types of things, that makes you look at it in a different way. These dudes are good for a reason. They work at it. The work ethic that he has kind of rubbed off on me and I just follow his footsteps.
Dime: With the summer leagues going, they got the Goodman League, the Drew League and everybody else. If you took the dudes from Seattle…
IT: Man, we trying. Jamal Crawford got his Pro-Am up here and we trying to get in contact with those leagues to get a game going. I think we got the most talent out of all of them. At least guards, our guards are better than everybody in the league. We have too much firepower.
Dime: You tell that to John?
IT: Oh John know. John know. He might not say it to you guys but he knows. Hopefully we get one of them games going so we can get some national exposure like the Drew League and the Goodman League do.
Dime: When you were coming up, maybe junior or senior year of high school, were you getting a lot of attention?
IT: I mean it was somewhat… mainly on the West Coast though. That’s why it was so good for me to come out here and these camps be on the East Coast for the East Coast guys to see me and showcase my talent. I was so-so. I got love from the West Coast but not really all over until I kinda got in the scene in college and started doing my thing.
Dime: As a smaller guard, what are your strengths and what do you think you have to have at this level?
IT: As a smaller guard, my strengths are quickness and making plays like getting into that paint and either scoring for myself or getting other guys an opportunity to score. And I think being a small guard in the NBA, you just gotta have the heart and the firepower to never back down from nobody because they’re gonna try to post you. They are gonna try to exploit the mismatch but I feel like you gotta guard me to on the other end so I got a mismatch the same way you think you’ve got a mismatch.
Dime: What’s the biggest different between the hardwood and the street stuff?
IT: There’s no foul calls in the streets man (laughs). You gotta be strong with it. But it kinda actually gets you better though so then when you get on the court, you don’t really call no fouls or you don’t mind if somebody hits you a little harder.
So that’s why those East Coast guys or those New York guys are a little tougher than the normal basketball player because they grew up on the streets. They grew up playing on the asphalt and the courts outside.
Dime: What’s your favorite part about playing outside?
IT: Just the atmosphere. The crowd getting into it.
Dime: Is there a different feeling on that court?
IT: A little bit. I can’t explain it, but it’s a little different. Outside is just more… I can’t really explain it. You gotta be able to play in it to really understand it.
Dime: Obviously you have your Seattle guys that you learn from. But other than that, do you have tapes of specific guys that you study?
IT: My role model that I pattern my game after is Damon Stoudamire. So I got a lot of film on him and I actually know him. We got a good relationship, and he tells me little things that he went through in the league. He tells me things to help out my game so that’s a big guy that I really model my game after. We’re both smaller. We’re both left-handed and he had a great career. He had a great 10-12 year career in the NBA. Guys like Nate Robinson who’s from Seattle. A lot of short guys. Damon Stoudamire is the big one.
Dime: People always talk about it’s different to guard a lefty. Do people play you differently or do you notice little things they do differently?
IT: I mean I always hear that it’s hard to guard a left-hander, but I don’t really see them playing any different. It is hard because I was actually guarding him today (points at Seth Allen) and it was a little weird because he’s left handed and I’m not used to guarding left handers. It is a little weird but at the same time you just gotta hoop.
Dime: What’s your favorite drill?
IT: Now I do a lot of shooting. Jason got me going through a lot of shooting drills. Look, he’s got those kids going through it right now. That’s mainly the stuff we do, getting up a lot of shots and making a lot of shots.
Does Seattle have more talent than anywhere else in the country?
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