A few weeks ago, I wrote this article on Isaiah Thomas, likening him to one Stacy Patton, a fictional NBA player from the movie Eddie with a bad reputation.
Since that article was published, much has been made of the comparison between Thomas and Patton.
For one, Isaiah, himself, has responded to the name-calling. The article has been the subject of radio discussion, for another. And as a whole, it has created a whirlwind of discussion and controversy on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
But to Isaiah’s credit, he has done everything humanly possible to shed the ill-fated nickname from his persona. And in nine games since that article first appeared in print, Isaiah has returned to the good graces of myself, and all other Husky fans alike.
To repay Isaiah for what he has done in the recent nine-game stretch, and to properly pay homage to his body of work as a whole, I give you the Top 11 Reasons I Love Isaiah Thomas.
11. He has yet to trim the fade
When it comes to hair, the greatness of one’s ‘do can be measured on a scale of one to 10, with one being the bowl cut and 10 the pubic heart.
Right now, I’d say Isaiah’s fade is roughly an 8.5, nestled comfortably between whatever the hell Ron Artest has going on at the moment (8) and Shawn Kemp’s diagonal frontal-lobe fade (9).
Keep it up, Isaiah, keep it up.
10. He salutes the crowd after a great play
That’s paying your proper respects to the fans.
Like saying, “Hey, I appreciate you coming here to watch me play, dropping money on that seat, emptying your wallet on those nachos, and applauding when I school my opponent. Thank you for your generosity, now let me repay you by saluting you.” All that with one hand gesture.
9. He’s hitting big shots when they need to be hit
Isaiah might very well always be a volume shooter, but he’s connecting on the right shots at the right time. I don’t care if he takes 15 threes a game, so long has he hits the two down the stretch when we need to regain the lead. And right now, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Big players make big plays. IT must be a big player, because he’s doing just that.
8. He’s a fierce competitor
Most guys would ignore criticism, or even shut down because of it. Isaiah is the exact opposite of that.
On the night of February 18, the date the infamous Stacy Patton article was published, Isaiah was the first person to respond to it on Facebook.
On Monday, March 22, more than a month since publication, Isaiah made a comment about the article on his Twitter account.
Like I said, most athletes would probably ignore such criticism or respond poorly to it. Not Isaiah.
In the nine games since I compared him to Patton, here are some of the impressive feats the Huskies’ combo guard has accomplished:
7. He’s averaging 17.1 points per game in that span, his season average
Compare that to the nine games prior to the UCLA game on February 20 (the first game since the Stacy Patton article had been published) when Isaiah was averaging just 15.2 points per game and had capped off that run with a five-point performance against USC.
His scoring has been upped by nearly two full points per game since that date.
6. He’s dishing out 4.1 assists per game in that span, one full assist over his season average
The raw data is as follows:
In the nine games since the Stacy Patton article, Isaiah has dished out a total of 37 assists, which equals the aforementioned 4.1 assists per game.
In the nine games prior to the Stacy Patton article, Isaiah doled out just 25 assists, an average of 2.78 assists per game.
On the season, Isaiah has recorded 107 assists in 34 games, or 3.1 assists per game.
Nine games equals 26.5% of the total number of games Isaiah has played this year.
Thirty-seven assists, however, equals 34.6% of the total number of assists I.T. has recorded this season.
5. He’s shooting 44.5% from the field in that span, up 3.1% from his season average
And more importantly, up 5.1% from his average during the previous nine-game run.
He is shooting 41.4% from the field on the year.
He shot 39.4% from the field in the nine games prior to the UCLA game on February 20.
4. He’s shooting 36.7% from three-point range in that span, up 4% from his season average
And again, more importantly, up a whopping 7.5% from his average during the previous nine-game run.
Isaiah is shooting 32.7% from beyond the arc on the season.
Isaiah shot 29.5% from beyond the arc in the nine games prior to the UCLA game on February 20.
Isaiah has knocked down 22 treys in his last nine ballgames, which accounts for 34.4% of his season total of 64.
3. He’s shooting 78.8% from the line in that span, up 5.1% from his season average
And once again, more importantly, up (get ready for this, please sit down) 13.9% from the previous nine-game run.
Isaiah is shooting 73.7% from the charity stripe on the season.
Isaiah connected on just 64.9% of his free-throws prior to the UCLA game on February 20.
Interestingly enough, Isaiah has taken 24 fewer free-throw attempts in his past nine games than in the previous nine-game span before that. Yet in those past nine games, he has only missed seven of his free throws, connecting on 26 of 33 total attempts.
In the previous nine games, Isaiah took 57 free throws and hit just 37, missing 20 attempts in the process.
2. He has made vast statistical improvements
To briefly summarize, Isaiah has improved his scoring, his assists, his field-goal percentage, his three-point percentage, and his free-throw percentage in the nine games since the Stacy Patton article was published.
To up your numbers in all five of those major categories is no small feat. For that, he deserves a world of credit.
1. He has made vast improvements in his approach to the game
More important than the numbers is the way Isaiah has altered his style of play in the past nine contests.
Rather than dominate the ball and look to create his own shot all the time, he has played the role of a selfless teammate to perfection. He has done his best to get others involved, while staying within himself and not trying to force shots.
These days, when Isaiah drives the lane, he has two options: pass or shoot. Earlier in the year, when Isaiah attacked the rack, you knew he was shooting 99% of the time. In the past nine ballgames, however, I’ve seen him drop a few dimes in traffic, the type of passes that an NBA-bound point guard would make.
The funny thing is, when the Stacy Patton article was published, people freaked out. They said I hated the Huskies, hated Isaiah Thomas, hated basketball. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
On the morning of February 19, I distinctly recall other pundits on radio and in print saying the same things I said about Isaiah. He was hogging the ball, he was forcing shots, he was making bad passes, he had lost his focus.
Between myself and others, I would wager that it’s easy to be critical of a guy like Isaiah because the bar is set so high for him. When you vastly underperform, people will notice. And that’s what happened.
Speaking for myself now, I issued a challenge to Isaiah Thomas when I likened him to Stacy Patton. Anyone who has ever played pickup basketball has endured a little trash-talk, and that was more or less what I was throwing Isaiah’s way with that unfortunate comparison. Had I been playing at the park, defending a guy jacking bad shots and hogging the ball, I would have called him the same name and no one would have looked at me funny. But because the words were in print, written down for others to see, it was near-blasphemous, never mind that it was the truth.
But here’s the thing. Isaiah saw my words as a challenge, took them as a challenge, and did everything he could to win the challenge and prove me wrong. And I knew when I said what I said, that he would respond in that way. Because Isaiah Thomas is a competitor and a winner, and people like that respond to criticism with big performances.
For that, I couldn’t love Isaiah Thomas any more. Just glad he’s on my team.