Mr. Irrelevant is the nickname given to the last man drafted, a nod to the fact that most of the athletes selected that late have no impact in the league. Isaiah Thomas, the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, doesn’t exactly fit the Mr. Irrelevant mold.
Ever since he was drafted, the 5-foot-9 guard has gone on an absolute tear, culminating this past season with career highs in points per game (20.3), rebounds per game (2.9) and assists per game (6.3). His performance netted him a four-year, $27-million contract and a sign-and-trade from the Sacramento Kings to the upstart Phoenix Suns, who won 48 games last year. We caught up with Thomas at the Reebok Classic Breakout to get his thoughts on how he’ll follow up his best season with something even better.
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STACK: What are you doing when you’re off the court?
Thomas: I actually do yoga two days a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays. [I’m also doing] an advanced training class with a guy named Tim Manson out of Seattle. I always just worked on Bench Press, Squat and things like that. Now I’m trying to focus on all the core work and the small muscles in the body, and it’s killing me, but I know at the end of the day it’ll make me a better player.
Have you noticed any changes in your on-court game after this new training?
Yes. I’m definitely more explosive. People always ask me if I can dunk. I don’t try to dunk any more. This season, that’s gonna be a factor for me, and I’m going to try to get some fastbreak dunks. I’m working on getting my explosiveness back and being able to sneak up on people at and above the rim.
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How do you think your game has evolved since you hit the NBA?
I think every year I have come back a better player. That’s what I want to do every year. They say the great players come back every year with something to prove. I want to be a great player, and I’m going to continue to work to become that player. I don’t really work on just one thing [in the off-season], I just try to get better at all aspects [of my game].
Thomas at the Reebok Classic Breakout.
Photo courtesy of Reebok
What’s a weakness of yours that you’re looking to make a strength?
My right hand, whether it’s going right, finishing around the rim or just making [one-handed] passes. Off the dribble, [I want to be able to make] quick passes, kind of like Steph Curry. He comes around pick and rolls and he can make a pass with his left hand with his eyes closed and hit the target. I’m doing a lot of target passing drills, pocket passing drills, over-the-head passing drills and drills that make me finish with my right hand.
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If you could go back and give yourself some advice when you were coming into the league, what would you say?
Be professional. Whatever it is, if you’re not getting playing time, if Coach doesn’t like you, whatever it is, just come in and be professional. Do your job and then when your opportunity comes, take advantage of it.
You’ve had to overcome a few obstacles in your basketball career. How have they affected you?
I just use it as motivation, Man. That’s what I do. Because I know through my entire life I was never given anything. People always say, “you’re too small. You won’t make it in college. You won’t make it in the NBA,” and I would come to the gym and continue to work hard. I know that to this day [those comments] will always be a thing for me. I’m going have to prove myself and I’m going to continue to do that.