Isaiah Thomas‘ career trajectory is one of the better feel-good stories of the NBA the past few years. After being picked dead last in the 2011 draft (behind people such as former teammate Jimmer Fredette, who is no longer in the league), Thomas proved he not only belonged in the league but was a real star when he made his inaugural All-Star appearance last season.
At just 5-foot-9, he didn’t get this far by being soft. After all, he was named after one of the toughest players in the history of the game. Time after time, Thomas has proved his mettle against much bigger opponents, but one of the rites of passage for every young player is their inevitable “Welcome to the NBA” moment. Thomas found his during his rookie season when he was forced to try and defend Kobe Bryant in the post – in Isaiah’s first game – which was more often than not a losing proposition for even the league’s premier defenders.
Thomas can be forgiven for being a little star-struck in that moment. It’s easy to forget that every incoming rookie is just a few short years removed from being a kid dreaming about those scenarios. Regardless, Westphal’s rule was a good one and clearly helped Thomas understand that his so-called physical limitations were mostly in his mind. We’ve seen what has happened since Thomas put that into practice.