A few weeks ago we compared the Huskies’ Isaiah Thomas to Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from MTV’s Jersey Shore.
Citing The Situation’s need for attention in a charming-yet-cocky sort of way, we alluded to Thomas’s me-first attitude on the court that, while at times selfish, was exactly what this otherwise-scoring-deficient ballclub needed.
Fast forward a few games and everything has changed.
Instead of being the aggressive volume scorer he was just weeks ago, Thomas has turned into a ballhog and a buzzkill. He’s gone from being the focal point of this team’s offense to the black hole. Instead of creating opportunities, Thomas has heisted them from his teammates, putting up goose eggs in the process.
Yesterday, Thomas’s stretch of mediocrity came to a head with a thirty-percent shooting performance that resulted in a total of seven points.
While Thomas’s final line was bad (7 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast, 4 TO, 3 PF, 3-10 FG, 1-4 FT, 0-4 3-pt), a stretch of two minutes to close out the first half was even worse.
In the waning moments of the opening period, the second-year guard dominated the ball and forced bad possession after bad possession.
He drove to the hoop against four defenders and threw up an off-balanced layup that failed to touch rim.
He dribbled, and dribbled, and dribbled some more while four of his teammates stood idly by, waiting for something to occur. He then turned the ball over.
In what seemed to be obligatory nods towards his teammates, he dumped off two ill-advised passes that resulted in wasted opportunities: a bounce pass in traffic to a well-defended Matthew Bryan-Amaning, and a kickout to the offensive liability that is Darnell Gant. The pass to Bryan-Amaning was stripped and stolen by Arizona. The kickout to Gant turned into an ugly miss from 18-feet that sits outside the forward’s range.
The unimpressive display convinced the coaching staff to send Thomas to the bench at the start of the second half. Venoy Overton was inserted into the lineup in the sophomore’s place, and the team performed better as result, retaking the lead after being faced with a six-point deficit at intermission.
Upon reentering the game shortly after the first media timeout, Thomas proceeded to more or less sulk on the playing surface. The first time he touched the ball, he sent a lazy pass to Abdul Gaddy which was promptly stolen by a defender, who was then fouled by the trailing Gaddy.
On ensuing possessions, Thomas dribbled off his leg, mishandled passes from his teammates, and all but refused to shoot the basketball.
If this is how the kid reacts to one benching, what does this say about his mental toughness?
For a showman who craves the spotlight and is more than happy to be the center of attention when things are going well, where’s the level of accountability?
Like it or not, for better or worse, this team belongs to Isaiah Thomas as much as it does Quincy Pondexter. Pondexter might be the more consistent party, but Thomas is a heavily-relied-upon option in the team’s gameplan.
There are fans and media members alike who are calling for Thomas’s head during this lull in performance. Likewise, there are those out there who feel Thomas should continue to see the same number of minutes he’s always seen. The fact is, there is no easy answer in handling this situation.
In the past one-and-a-half seasons, this team has been dependent on Isaiah Thomas for production. Now, however, the team is functioning just fine without their diminutive star.
If anything, it is Thomas who will need to adjust to his ever-improving teammates. Clearly, they can get the job done without his presence.
But asking such a potent scorer to shy away from his natural inclinations will be no easy task. He won’t be able to shoot as often as he’d like. He won’t be able to dominate the ball as frequently as he’s used to. He’ll have to create for others just as easily as he does for himself.
And if he can’t do that, then it’s time to seriously consider finding Thomas a chair and asking him to get comfortable.
For this team, it’s now or never. No one individual can put himself before the group. And the group must win as a whole, united. It’s time for Isaiah Thomas to buy into that belief, or else he’ll find himself on the outside looking in.