Thomas Discusses Decision to Join Phoenix Suns
As Isaiah Thomas walked into US Airways Center, he couldn’t help but smile. The Phoenix Suns went all-out during his free agency visit, putting pictures of him in a Suns jersey on the Jumbotron and all over the arena – inside and out. “The Phoenix Suns welcome Isaiah Thomas” read an electronic sign outside of the building. This is exactly what Thomas was looking for entering the offseason.
“I went on one visit, with the Phoenix Suns, and they just pulled out the red carpet for me and in the end I just felt wanted,” Thomas told Basketball Insiders. “That was the biggest thing for me, to go to a team that really wanted me for who I was and loved me for what I did – loved me for being a scoring point guard and being a 5’9 point guard. I felt Phoenix was the best destination for me with the style of play, with the coach and with the whole organization there. Everything feels like it’s going forward. I mean, they won 48 games last year, they were one game from the playoffs and it just seemed like the right fit for me.”
Thomas signed a four-year, $28 million deal with Phoenix shortly after his visit. He hadn’t always felt wanted in the past, as a member of the Sacramento Kings. Even though he put up impressive numbers and improved each year after being the 60th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Kings kept trying to bring in new point guards to take over the starting job – from Aaron Brooks to Greivis Vasquez. The Kings could’ve re-signed Thomas, since he was a restricted free agent, but they decided to let him go.
“Am I surprised Sacramento didn’t bring me back? People always ask that. Actually, I wasn’t. I always felt like they didn’t appreciate me as much as they should,” Thomas said. “I’m not saying the fans – the fans loved me and the city of Sacramento loved me. But it’s a business. They felt like they could get somebody better and I don’t blame them, that’s on them, and it’s their loss. I’m just going to continue to work hard, and worry about the Phoenix Suns. That’s what it’s about now. It’s not about Sacramento. It’s not about me not going back there. I wish them the best, and now it’s about being on the Phoenix Suns and making the playoffs.”
Thomas is coming off of a career-year, in which he averaged 21.2 points, 6.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals in his 54 starts. Statistically, Thomas was one of the most productive point guards in the league. His 20.54 efficiency rating was fourth-best among all NBA point guards, behind only Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.
However, even though he experienced individual success, the Kings only managed to win 28 games last year. He has never played in the postseason, and he’s excited that the Suns will potentially allow him to experience the playoffs.
“It’s very exciting because that’s what it’s all about,” Thomas said. “I mean once you win, all of the individual success comes along with that. That’s what I want to do next. I want to win. I want to get to the playoffs; I want to see what that’s like because I’m tired of just watching the playoffs each and every year. I feel like Phoenix gave me the best chance of doing that. They’re on the rise and they’re an organization that wants to get better. They have great players and a great coaching staff with Jeff Hornacek and all of the other coaches. It just seems like a perfect fit, and I’m excited to get things started.”
Thomas’ decision to join the Suns was somewhat surprising, considering Phoenix already has two star point guards in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (who is a restricted free agent) in their backcourt. Not to mention, they had just drafted Tyler Ennis in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Immediately, people wondered if the Suns were planning to trade Dragic or let Bledsoe go. However, Thomas says the Suns told him that they plan to keep all three point guards and use them together. He’s excited about this possibility and believes Phoenix could have one of the best backcourts in the league.
“People always ask me, ‘What’s going to happen with you, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic?’ At the end of the day I’m going to play, we’re going to play together, we’re going to have fun with it and we’re going to figure it out,” Thomas said. “I mean whatever happens, it’s for the best, and that’s how I’m going about it. We’re going to compete each and every day, we’re going to make each other better and we’re going to do what’s best for the team. … The coaching staff and the organization said, ‘You’re going to be a big part of what we do. We want Eric Bledsoe back – we hope he comes back because we feel like with the three of you guys it would be a combination that no other NBA team has.’ One thing that’s good about it is that we’re three different basketball players, three different guards; we’re not all the same, we go about our ways differently, we play the game of basketball differently and we can complement each other in different ways. I’m just excited about it.”
Thomas is fine with coming off of the bench in Phoenix, as long as he can still be a significant contributor for the team.
“They said, ‘You’re going to play. We value you as a starter, we know you’re a starter in this league. Whatever happens, happens, but you’re going to be a big part of what we do,’” Thomas said. “I’m glad they felt that way and, at the end of the day, if I’m getting 30-plus minutes a game and I have a big role on the team, it doesn’t matter if I come off the bench or start. My peers know that I am a starter in this league so I don’t have to prove that to anybody if I do come off the bench. I just want to be on a winning organization. I want to do whatever I can to be able to win because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.”
The 25-year-old spent some time in Phoenix to work out after he inked his new contract. This gave him a chance to train alongside new teammates Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and Miles Plumlee among others.
But Thomas is now limited in what he can do since he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist. He said that he injured his wrist during the 2013-14 season, but played through it and put off surgery until this offseason. He is confident that he’ll be 100 percent by the time training camp gets underway.
“I’ll be ready for training camp, no doubt,” Thomas said. “I actually injured myself back in February, and I kept playing on it because I just didn’t feel like it was that serious enough to sit out. I just kept playing through it, and it affected my shot a little bit, but I mean I felt if I could run then I could play, so I kept playing through it. At the end of the season I had rested it for a month to see if it was going to heal on its own, and then throughout the summer it was feeling better some days and feeling not so good and then it came to a point in time I just needed to get this scope done and clean out some extra tissue that was in there. But I’ll be ready for training camp. I’m only down for a month.”
Thomas was an excellent acquisition for the Suns, who exceeded all expectations by finishing last season with a 48-34 record.
DeRozan Continues Incredible Year With Team USA Selection
DeMar DeRozan had a breakout season in 2013-14, leading the Toronto Raptors to the playoffs for the first time in five years and earning his first All-Star selection. He averaged 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, four assists and 1.1 steals on the season and emerged as one of the best shooting guards in the league.
Now, the 25-year-old has another impressive accomplishment to add to his resume: he’s a member of Team USA. DeRozan was one of 12 players selected to represent the United States in the FIBA World Cup, which gets underway in Spain on August 30. DeRozan made the final roster, beating out players like Damian Lillard, Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver, who were the final cuts.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this team,” DeRozan said in a statement. “This is what all my hard work is for and I’m glad that it has paid off.
“I look forward to continuing to put in the work and doing whatever I can to contribute to the team’s success and bringing back gold.”
The following players will join DeRozan on the 2014 USA Basketball World Cup team: DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings); Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons); Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets); Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings); James Harden (Houston Rockets); Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers); Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets); Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls); and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors).
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski admitted that it was tough to put the final roster together, but added that he’s excited to see what this group can accomplish.
“The first thing is we are very pleased with the overall effort of every player who was a part of the process,” said Krzyzewski. “To select twelve was difficult, because our pool is so good. As we go forward, we not only go forward as twelve, we go forward as a pool for USA Basketball. As a staff we want to thank the players who are not going forward. I’m excited about the 12 players selected and feel we have excellent versatility and the makings of a really good defensive team.”
DeRozan will provide excellent athleticism and instant offense off the bench. Last season, he finished ninth in the NBA in scoring.
The USA will complete their pre-World Cup exhibition tour on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain. They will train August 24-25, and then close out their exhibition tour on August 26 facing Slovenia at Gran Canaria Arena. The USA team will complete its training for the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Basketball World Cup August 28-29 in Bilbao, Spain, the site of its World Cup preliminary round games.
The USA will play its preliminary round games in Bilbao, after being drawn into Group C along with teams from the Dominican Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Turkey and Ukraine.The USA opens the 2014 World Cup on August 30 against Finland.