Rookie Tales ... with Isaiah Thomas

As the Cavs Roll Into California's Capital, I.T. Recalls His Rookie Campaign
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Rookie Tales ... with Isaiah Thomas

As the Cavs Roll Into California's Capital, I.T. Recalls His Rookie Campaign

Last week in Cleveland, for the first time this season, Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas suited up, strapped on his trademark headband and took part in the layup line and the pregame, post-intro sermon from LeBron.

He hasn’t seen game action yet – finally putting the wraps on the rehab from the hip injury that sidelined him through the first 34 games of the season. But he’s close.

Thomas came to Cleveland in a blockbuster offseason trade that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston and changed the Eastern Conference landscape. He also comes to Cleveland as the East’s reigning scoring leader, finishing All-NBA Second Team after averaging 28.9 ppg for the Celtics.

The former Washington Huskie standout has been defying the odds his whole life, and his now-storied NBA career began in exactly the same fashion – selected with the final pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, 59 spots after the Wine & Gold tabbed Kyrie Irving at No. 1. Since then, Thomas’ rise has been meteoric, and the next Chapter is likely to begin in a matter of days.

As the Cavaliers prepare to face off against the franchise that gave their soon-to-be starting point guard his NBA start, we asked I.T. for a moment to recall his initial campaign in California’s capital in today’s Rookie Tales

A young Isaiah Thomas poses for his rookie photo shoot with the Kings.
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

What was the end of that Second Round like on Draft Night in 2011 – watching guys like Tanguy Ngombo and Ater Majok coming off the board before you?

Isaiah Thomas: That was a long day; probably one of the longest days of my life.

It was disrespectful to see those guys who would probably never touch an NBA court picked in front of me. But, you know, I was happy. I was happy to just be chosen – no matter where it was.

And I'm always thankful to Sacramento for giving me my first opportunity.

Especially as a kid from Seattle, what was it like that first season, thinking there was a chance the Kings might end up there?

Thomas: Everybody thought that. Ninety-nine percent chance. The whole organization thought we were going to Seattle.

But Kevin Johnson did a hell of a job fighting for his team and getting the right guys behind him. And for the Kings to be in Sacramento, you have to thank Kevin Johnson.

The fans definitely rallied behind him. But he got the right guys behind him to keep the team in Sacramento.

Those first few times you faced off against Kyrie Irving and the Cavs, it seemed like you really wanted to go at him. Did it have anything to do with where you both were drafted?

Thomas: Nah, because I didn't know Kyrie. So it wasn't like I was upset with him!

It just happened to be that I almost always played well against him. Everybody always brought up the No. 1 vs. No. 60 thing, but it was nothing special against him.

It is crazy when you think about that I got traded for him, but you know ...

You didn’t go at him especially hard?

Thomas: I went at everybody hard those first couple years.

"It was a tough situation in Sacramento at times. But once I got my opportunity, I just took it and ran with it."

Isaiah on his first campaign in Cali

Standard question: Was there a veteran that year who took you under their wing and one who particularly tough on you?

Thomas: Francisco Garcia was my vet. He was a guy that looked out for me. We always went to dinner together that first season in Sac. He's the veteran who kind of showed me the ropes my first year in the league.

Tough veteran?

Thomas: No, we had a young team, so Francisco might have been the oldest guy on the team! And then John Salmons, he doesn't talk too much.

Francisco was my guy -- he's the one who looked out for me.

Any rookie initiation for you and the other rookies?

Thomas: I had to bring donuts to practice every morning. I did my job, so there wasn’t anything to mess with me about. The rest fell on Tyler Honeycutt and Jimmer Fredette.

Jimmer had a lot of pressure coming in from all sides – they thought he was going to be the savior. It was a tough situation in Sacramento at times. But once I got my opportunity, I just took it and ran with it.