Isaiah Thomas started in place of John Salmons on Friday as the Kings lost to the Pistons. That means that Tyreke Evans was essentially the small forward, if not the co-point guard. (Point forward? I don't know.) Two things that Keith Smart had been consistent about all season were that Tyreke Evans is a point guard and that Jimmer Fredette is a point guard. Jimmer started with Tyreke when Marcus Thornton was out, most likely because there were few other options outside of moving down Salmons to two-guard and bringing in Donte Greene at small forward. If Francisco Garcia isn't going to get a look, and you're not shifting Salmons to two-guard, it was going to be Jimmer or Isaiah replacing Thornton. As they are similar, it didn't say a whole lot about Tyreke.
This one seems to say a lot more.
Here's Keith Smart in the post-game:
On starting Isaiah:
"I just felt they need more direction with another ball-handler, with a decision-maker that can also get us up the court pretty quickly."
Smart isn't saying that the team needed a point guard or even that the team needed a new point guard. He's sticking with the need for an additional ball-handler.
Isaiah played 22 of 24 minutes in the first and third quarters and about one minute in the second and fourth combined. In the first and third quarters, the Kings had an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent. In the second and fourth: 47 percent. Sixteen assists on 23 made baskets in first and third; nine assists on 20 baskets in the second and fourth.
The Pistons didn't have a great offensive fourth quarter -- it was on par with the first three quarters. The Kings lost because their offense fell apart. That in itself is a pretty ringing endorsement for Smart's Isaiah option. The most interesting part of the whole thing is that it was Tyreke -- not Isaiah -- who ended up with the bulk of the assists (nine, to I.T.'s four). And when did Tyreke get all of those? He had eight combined in the first and third quarters -- when Isaiah was on the floor -- and just one in the 17 minutes he played in the second and fourth quarters without Isaiah.
Thomas didn't end up becoming the primary point guard in place of Tyreke by starting with him. He fueled Tyreke's point guard fire.
It's a real interesting set-up. Look forward to seeing it again, and also seeing if Smart makes the same fourth quarter judgment call next time.
Requisite: free Donte.