Even though Isaiah Thomas downplayed the importance of starting for the first time this season on Monday, the move means a lot for his game moving forward and the Kings overall.
Following Monday's win over the Dallas Mavericks, head coach Michael Malone confirmed Thomas will be the starter for the remainder of the season, and it could pay huge dividends. Thomas has played with a chip on his shoulder his entire career, battling for minutes and respect. Now, he's got both to go along with the confidence of his coach.
"For me, knowing that I have trust in my coach, that says a lot so I'm just going to keep fighting, keep battling, try to help this team win some games," Thomas told Sactown Royalty.
The green light given to Thomas paid off on Monday as he helped lead the Kings to a 112-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on his way to a career-high 12 assists, to go along with 24 points. Thomas' assist total on the first night without Vasquez on the team was ironic considering the knock on him has been he is not a "pass-first" point guard.
The Kings have now made it clear Thomas is the guy who will handle a bulk of the scoring load and also be responsible, in large part, for the ball movement. Thomas believes he plays best when he sticks to what he is good at (pushing the tempo and scoring) before he worries about passing.
"When I try to do that [pass first], it takes away my aggressiveness to just be me," Thomas told reporters.
Malone wants his 5'9'' point guard to simply be aggressive and make plays.
"I told him after the game, 'that's who you need to be.' Be a scorer, be in attack mode, but you also have to make sure you are facilitating and getting all your teammates shots," Malone told Sactown Royalty following the win over the Mavericks.
As Akis pointed out, the Kings need Thomas' energy and speed to match the style of Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay more than they needed the methodical play of the now-departed Vasquez. Akis also broke down how Thomas' assist rate (34.6 percent) is higher than the likes of Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Kyrie Irving, among others.
In other words, let's let Isaiah be Isaiah.
Pete D'Alessandro continues to stack the roster with athletes and jettison the pieces from the Geoff Petrie era (other than Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins, the remaining Petrie players on the roster are Marcus Thornton, Jason Thompson, Jimmer Fredette and Travis Outlaw). One of the biggest takeaways from the Rudy Gay trade (and there are many) was that D'Alessandro did not have to ship Thomas as part of the deal. And that is a definite positive considering Thomas is good for the Kings on the floor and represents Sacramento well - his underdog story and his fighting spirit run parallel to everything this city and Kings fans have endured in recent years.
Thomas has been handed the keys to the point guard position as pure athletes are installed around him and Cousins, and Thomas is now in a situation that he hasn't been in yet in his NBA career: No more looking over his shoulder to see who will be checking in off the bench for him and no more questions about how many minutes he is going to play.
Now, the Hustlin' Husky can use that chip he has on his shoulder to focus on helping this team make that next step.