In Sacramento, the fans cheered for
In Phoenix, Thomas’ image adorned a game-day
These are not scenes from Thomas' playing time in those cities. They are what it looked like this year when Thomas returned to the cities whose franchises discarded him for next to nothing.
Thomas' undeterred confidence was justified in Boston, where his vision of greatness proved to be no joke.
Sacramento and Phoenix remain in the
"Nobody believed it, except probably my family and my friends," said Thomas, who skipped Boston's weekend road trip to Brooklyn and Philadelphia to heal a right knee bone bruise. "Nobody believed anything that I've always said until I showed them and I've been given the opportunity here in Boston to showcase what I can do and I've taken full advantage of it."
With the Suns, Thomas was limited to 25.7 reserve minutes a game behind a backcourt of
By February 2015, Thomas and Dragic were granted trades over their disgruntled roles. The
"I thank them with all my heart," said Thomas, who did not recall being on a billboard during his time in Phoenix. "It's like they gave me a Christmas gift."
Thomas' intense play gained him a starting role by his first full season in Boston.
"Boston is bigger and better than everything in the NBA," Thomas said. "It's something I've never seen before and I'm just embracing it.'
After being the last pick of the 2011 draft, Thomas' openness about having All-Star expectations were never taken seriously. He was used to that after always being overlooked, literally — at 5 feet, 9 inches — the shortest player on every team.
Thomas' drive was unabated with a shoulder chip that was implanted by a 5-foot-6 father. Keith Thomas frequently took his preteen son to play with adults at Fort Lewis, an Army base outside their hometown of Tacoma, Wash. Keith is an Inglewood native, whose Laker fandom prompted a bet loss that led to naming his son after Isiah Thomas, albeit with a Biblical spelling.
Thomas has 43 consecutive 20-point games, which broke John Havlicek's 44-year-old franchise record.
"He just is a guy that constantly strives to improve," Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said. "He wants to be better. He takes every slight as a chip on his shoulder but he also takes every success as a hunger to do more. … He has been exactly what we have needed. Those guys around him fit his style well, a bunch of skilled players. We needed a guy who could get in the paint and create for others."
Thomas can get to the rim and draw contact while keeping the ball away with an outstretched arm. His shot comes off softly with a flick. He has the footwork and bravado of a boxer. By no coincidence, Floyd Mayweather Jr, is among his best friends and an off-season training partner.
Thomas is using the Celtics’ addition of
Thomas earned the team's leadership with his play in the games, voice in a room and example off the court.
"I've always been a leader," Thomas said. "These guys follow my lead."
It also is his city at this time of year. He recently talked to
"Maybe if I win a championship one day, I could almost compare myself to him but his [in-city attention] is 100 times worse than me for sure," Thomas said.
"I don't put no ceiling on myself. I still have got a lot of room for improvement. I feel like I haven't shown the world everything."