WALTHAM, Mass. – Isaiah Thomas stood before the media throng on Friday afternoon at the Celtics’ practice facility and answered all the questions with the usual truthful tone sprinkled with a bit of humor.
But you could sense that he was still bitter about the results announced by the NBA on Thursday as to who will be the starters in next month’s All-Star Game.
Cleveland’s LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler were the frontcourt starters announced by the league. In the backcourt you will find Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, who finished in a tie with Thomas in this first season in which fans, media and players all have a say in who will be the game’s starting five, as opposed to past seasons in which the starters were chosen strictly by fans.
DeRozan and Thomas finished in a tie under the voting system, but DeRozan moved ahead of Thomas due to a tie-breaker (fan vote), in which DeRozan had about 41,000 more votes than Thomas.
“It’s not the end of the world; it’s all good,” said Thomas. “I was disappointed, but those guys deserve it as well. I did everything I could in my control to put myself in position to be a starter. It’s not the end of the world.”
Especially knowing that the coaches will vote him on to the team for the second year in a row.
But for Thomas to be even in the conversation speaks to how the league’s new system of choosing All-Star starters, makes the whole choosing of starters about more than just a popularity contest, which is the irony of Thomas being left off the starting five – it ultimately came down to DeRozan receiving more votes from fans than Thomas.
“I didn’t really look at it. I didn’t look at what the reason was, but it is what it is,” Thomas said. “I’ll use it as motivation. I have to get better. That’s all I took out of that. I’m not where I want to be.”
Thomas finished fourth in fan voting for the starting nod, but was second among players and first among Eastern Conference guards among the media.
“I appreciate everybody who voted for me, especially you [media] guys,” Thomas said. “The media showed me some love and then my peers showed me love too.”
But as far as coming so close to being an All-Star starter and not making it, Thomas said, “It hurts but I’ll be alright. I’ll use it as motivation and keep going.”
Thomas is having a banner season that has elevated his name and game into the conversation for the league’s MVP award that so far is being led by Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
He averages 28.7 points per game, which is tops among Eastern Conference players and fourth overall.
Among his more notable accomplishments this season, he scored a franchise-record 29 points in the fourth quarter of a win over Miami, and in the same game, wound up scoring a career-high 52 points.
Thomas isn’t the only NBA player who has had a season that most would believe would result in him being an All-Star starter.
“You look in the west, [Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook] averages a triple-double and he didn’t get in [to start],” Thomas said. “I guess…I’ll let everybody debate for me and argue for me. Those guys that made it who start, they deserved it.”