Culture of Hoops

Isaiah Thomas’ play sparking more than just comeback efforts


The Sacramento Kings’ focus of late isn’t surprising considering the prevalence of talented point guards in today’s NBA. In fact, the Kings are fraught with choice themselves.

Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Isaiah Thomas sparked a furious late-game comeback effort, outscoring the entire opposition 21-19 in the fourth quarter.

While DeMarcus Cousins has consistently excelled this year, taking a large step forward in his personal development, Thomas has garnered much attention as a result of his electrifying play.

His performances late in games have not only saved Sacramento the embarrassment of some potential blowout losses, but recently they’ve even given his team opportunities to win, though it’s failed to capitalize.

Still, he remains on the bench in favor of Greivis Vasquez, who was acquired during the offseason.

Michael Malone admitted Thursday that of the Kings’ point guards, Thomas played the best in the preseason and his play throughout the regular season has made Malone debate starting him.

“I’ve thought about (starting Thomas) at times this season,” Malone said. “I go back and forth sometimes, but I still feel that the best thing for us is to start Greivis, give him an opportunity, then bring Isaiah in; and more times than not, Isaiah’s going to be on the floor when we close games.”

So far this season Thomas, who is averaging 17.6 points per game, leads the league in scoring off the bench.

Despite keeping Thomas on the bench, Malone has routinely acknowledged his strong play and prominent role on the team. He also said Thursday that he expects to continue to pair Thomas and Vasquez together in certain situations.

The Runaround

Friday the Kings take on the Los Angeles Lakers, who, directed by Steve Blake, picked apart Sacramento’s defense in their last meeting less than two weeks ago.

Blake racked up 12 assists, finding open teammates by weaving in and out of the Kings’ defense, something Sacramento will focus on deterring this time around.

“We did a poor job of defending Steve Blake last game. He got to wherever he wanted to go – lived in our paint,” Malone said. “Our bigs have to do a good job of being up and helping our guards contain Blake to help takeaway some of those open three-point looks.”

Return Delayed

Prior speculation pegged Friday’s matchup with the Kings as Kobe Bryant’s targeted return from his achilles tendon injury, which has kept him out of action since April.

While Bryant has been participating in Lakers practice this week, it now seems as though he’ll attempt to come back Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, forgoing the Kings the challenging burden of his on-court presence.

“I got great news last night, hearing Kobe’s not playing,” joked Malone, though he’s still prepared for the slim chance that Bryant does make an appearance. “Nothing surprises me in the NBA … You have to be prepared for anything at all times. (Bryant is) the kind of guy that could wake up tomorrow and say, ‘You know what, it actually feels really good. Let me go out there and play.’”

“We’re not overanalyzing it. If he plays he plays, if he doesn’t, we have a challenge ahead of us regardless. We’re playing the L.A. Lakers whether there’s Kobe Bryant or no Kobe Bryant.”

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