Q+A: Isaiah Thomas
Kings PG talks Reebok, and his push toward Rookie of the Year.
by Brendan Bowers / @StepienRules
Isaiah Thomas was drafted last this past June, selected 60th overall by the Sacramento Kings, and when February came, he wasn’t invited to play in the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge during All-Star Weekend. It’s April now, however, and Thomas has since cemented himself in the conversation with only Kyrie Irving for the League’s Rookie of the Year honor.
After first getting his opportunity to start for the Kings in mid-February, Thomas went on to win the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award twice. He’s combined to average 13 points and 5 assists during February and March, and he’ll win the award for April too once this season concludes. In the last nine games this month, Thomas has upped his scoring average to 16 points per night, to go along with those 5 assists.
He says his play this year, and most notably his ability to feel stronger as the season’s gone on, is a reflection of all the hard work he put in off the court this summer. Thomas signed with Reebok after turning pro, and specifically points to the Reebok CrossFit program as being that critical piece to his workout regimen which has helped him persevere throughout his first NBA grind.
SLAMonline caught up with Isaiah on Tuesday to talk about his relationship with Reebok, and his first season in the NBA, just prior to the Kings’ home date with the Spurs on Wednesday.
SLAM: How are you feeling, and how’s your body holding up right now after playing as many games as you just have for the first time in your career?
Isaiah Thomas: I’m feeling pretty good, my body is holding up pretty well. There are some things that are worse than others, but it’s just a grind. It’s something that you can’t really explain to anybody else unless they’ve been through it. In college you play two games a week, if that, and then you’re practicing every day. In the NBA though, you’re playing maybe four or five games a week. With this season, you’ve had the times where you have the back-to-back-to-back games too, then you got practices, and shoot-a-rounds, and you really have to cherish your days off. It’s a lot different from college, it’s hard, but that’s also where the work I feel like I put in this summer, and leading up to the season, is really helping me right now.
SLAM: Can you talk about that work you put in this offseason? What did you do specifically, and how did Reebok help you prepare for your first run through the NBA?
IT: Reebok has helped me get into the best shape of my life, especially for my first season in the NBA. It’s different, because when I went to Reebok this summer, we all worked out. Me, Jason Terry, Jameer Nelson, John Wall and a lot of others worked out together with the Reebok CrossFit. The CrossFit is a different workout regimen than I’d ever gone through before, but doing that, and staying with it throughout the lockout, it really helped me. It made me focus on different types of things that I never focused on before. CrossFit is just a different monster; you gotta really be ready for it because it’s something that you really never experienced before.
SLAM: Prior to signing with Reebok this summer, were you a Reebok guy growing up? Were you wearing Allen Iverson’s, for example, back during your high school days, and as you made your way through the AAU circuit?
IT: Allen Iverson is a big reason why kids wore Reebok, everybody wanted to be Allen Iverson. The shoes that he had were just so stylish. You could rock them on the court, you could wear them with your jeans, and it was just the style back then. In high school I wore Reeboks, and I always went to Reebok Camps. I’ve been to the legendary ABCD Camp, which was changed to Reebok University, and in the summer I also played on a couple Reebok-sponsored teams. So Reebok is nothing new to me, and to be sponsored by Reebok is just a blessing from God. I was in the Iversons growing up, the Sean dot Carters, and I’m even trying to ask them to bring back the old Shaquille O’Neals because they were so stylish too.
SLAM: What are the exercises included in the CrossFit workout specifically, and how do you think that helped your body hold up the way it has up late in the season here?
IT: CrossFit has a lot to do with your core, and a lot to do with maintaining your body. I feel like CrossFit is perfect for an NBA player because it helps your body maintain for a long time. Every body part that you have, you can work on your legs, your upper body, your core, there’s so many different workouts. The workouts vary from all body parts, and it’s just helped me a lot. You see a lot of players toward the end of the season dying down, kinda getting more tired, and I feel like I can keep going. I feel like that has a lot to do with Reebok and the Reebok CrossFit. There’s times that I’m running, and running, and running, and I’m like, Man, I’m not getting tired.
SLAM: I’ve heard the Kings, along with Reebok, are giving away some shoes in promotion of you as Rookie of the Year at an upcoming game. Can you talk about what the plans are for that?
IT: Reebok, the Kings and my agency are throwing an Isaiah Thomas Rookie of the Year night, which is going to be held on Wednesday. We’re giving away Reebok shirts to the first 2,000 fans, and we are giving away 100 or so shoes as well which I also signed. I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for the people around me, and Rebook for trusting in me and signing me. I couldn’t thank them enough, because when other guys weren’t around, they stuck with me.
SLAM: At the All-Star Break, you weren’t invited to the Rookie/Sophomore Game. Now to have the event like you’re having Wednesday, and to be in the ROY race with Kyrie Irving, and to have earned all that through your play on the court, what does that mean to you at this point?
IT: It means a lot. It’s a blessing from God to even be in consideration for Rookie of the Year. For the Rookie/Sophomore Game, I felt like some of the guys that were selected that I outplayed. But it also gave me extra motivation to get in the gym, to work even harder, and to know that I still have doubters. Even though I’ve been playing pretty well in the NBA, there’s guys who still say I can’t do this or I can’t do that. It just puts a bigger chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong, and hopefully I get invited to that game next year.
SLAM: What does it mean for you on a personal level to see the way Reebok, the Sacramento Kings, and so many NBA fans in general have gotten behind your Rookie of the Year campaign right now?
IT: From the start of the season, I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I always felt like if I got the opportunity and chance that I was given, I could compete at a high level and play in the NBA. With Reebok, my agency, the Sacramento Kings, and all the fans, they’ve really embraced me with open arms. They really have a lot of trust in me, and a lot of faith in me, that I have a legitimate case for Rookie of the Year. Without them I couldn’t be in this situation, they’ve helped me not only on the court, but off the court as well.