WASHINGTON – For so many years, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were Public Enemy Number one to the Boston Celtics.
Now the Celtics still have no love for the Lakers, but they just might be warming up to Bryant who has been helping Celtics star Isaiah Thomas prepare for the last six playoff games for Boston – all wins.
“We’ve been in communication the last couple of weeks, ever since my sister (Chyna Thomas) passed,” Thomas said. “He’s been a big help since Game 2 (of the Chicago Bulls series). We actually watched film.”
Listening to Thomas describe their conversations, it had the feel of the Karate Kid with Mr. Miyagi (Bryant) and Daniel-san (Thomas).
“He was going over my film with me, and teaching me things he looks at when he watches film,” Thomas said. “That’s probably been a big help for me.”
In the first two games of the Chicago Bulls series, both losses for the Celtics, Thomas averaged 26.5 points, 4.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 turnovers while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent on 3’s. The last six games have led to a significant shift in Thomas’ impact on games. In that span he’s averaging 28.5 points, 6.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds with 2.5 turnovers while shooting 49.6 percent from the field.
Thomas added that he and Bryant have been texting before and after every game.
“He’s definitely helped,” Thomas said. “Tells me what he sees and what I should be watching for on film.”
When asked what Bryant looks for on film, Thomas, smiling, said “nah. I’m not gonna say.”
Thomas added, “mentally he’s on a different level than anybody I’ve ever met.”
The two-time all-star recalled a recent conversation with Thomas that lasted about 30 minutes.
“I emailed him my film and he watched every second of it, telling me what times to go to, and what to look at and certain things I didn’t look at when I watched film,” Thomas said. “Like I said, mentally you can tell he’s one of the greatest ever.”
Thomas added, “he made me figure out a lot of things. He’s been a very helping hand when it comes to the film and figuring out what to do the next day.”
And yes, both players are fully aware of the irony of a former Laker helping a current Celtic to elevate his game.
“He’s just trying to help out,” Thomas said. “That’s probably the craziest thing to happen to me. I was home in Washington I was on the phone and my mom kept saying, ‘who are you talking to?’ I had to put it on mute and tell her, ‘It’s Kobe.’”
Bryant has even given Thomas a nickname – the Mighty I.T. – which is part of Bryant’s web series which focuses on different NBA players.
“Any nickname he gives me, I’m going to take,” Thomas said.
This is just the latest ‘Did that really happen?’ moment for Isaiah Thomas who has become the one NBA player so many of the game’s all-time greats, like Michael Jordan and now Bryant, love.
“It doesn’t seem real, for Kevin Garnett to leave me a voice mail, things like that, things you don’t ever dream of,” Thomas said. “Get done with a game and see a text message from Kobe, Tom Brady, Floyd (Mayweather Jr.), all those type of guys I’m trying to follow in their footsteps. I’m trying to keep going as a basketball player and as a person.”