How Isaiah Thomas — Joe Pesci with a jump shot — pushed Nuggets to NBA stratosphere


He’s 5-foot-9 and everybody’s big brother, Joe Pesci with a jump shot. Sometimes it’s a tip. Sometimes it’s a nudge. Sometimes it’s a joke. Sometimes it’s a figurative kick in the crown jewels.

“He’s the one who’s going to say something, too, like, ‘You’re not playing good. You need to step up,’ or something like that,” Nuggets center Nikola Jokic said recently when asked to explain what it’s like to share a locker room with Isaiah Thomas. “I think that’s what veterans do, and that’s what he does.”

Which led to the follow-up query from the scribes: What did he ever say to you?

The Joker grinned at that one.

“He told me in the preseason,” the all-star big man recalled, “he told me, ‘Are you gonna start playing or what?’ ”

[WATCH: Isaiah Thomas turns 30 and the Nuggets rookies sing "Happy Birthday” to him]

Which, funny enough, is the same question on the mind of NBA wonks and Nuggets fans this week, ever since reports bubbled up last month that the 30-year-old point guard, who has been rehabbing from hip surgery, had targeted this pre-all-star-break mini-homestand with Miami (on Monday) and Sacramento (on Wednesday) to make his possible season debut. Coach Michael Malone noted that the eight-year NBA vet did participate in 5-on-5 practice sessions Sunday morning at the Pepsi Center but is keeping the rest of the cards clutched tightly to his chest.

We don’t know for certain if it’s this week. Or the next. But we do know this: The Nuggets (37-18 entering Monday night’s game) aren’t turning the screws on the rest of the Western Conference without big brother Isaiah pushing his younger teammates, be it in the locker room, in practice, or from his seat at the end of the bench.

“We probably wouldn’t be this high along in the West if he wasn’t in our locker room,” point guard Monte Morris, one of the franchise’s — and the league’s — great narratives of 2019, said of Thomas. “(He’s) giving us tips on guys he played and just knowing how to pull through. I look up to him a lot, not just because he’s at my position, just what he’s been through and everything. So we’re looking forward to having him back. Everybody knows what he brings to the table, and when you add that on top of what we’re doing right now, we should be really, really good.”

What’s remarkable is how really, really good they’ve been even without Thomas, a career 18.1-points-per-game scorer, on the floor through the season’s first 55 contests. And that leads to questions about how the veteran fits in the backcourt rotation, where the emergence of Morris and Malik Beasley has been the silver lining that has dwarfed what was supposed to be the cloud left by his absence.

“(He brings) a lot of leadership,” Nuggets swing man Will Barton said of Thomas. “A former all-star. Scorer. A guy that can close games. Toughness. …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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