Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, wearing neither a shirt nor superhero cape, held court with the media after his latest dynamic performance against John Wall and the Washington Wizards. The 10 or so people holding recorders or cameras asked the 5-foot-9 guard various questions about his latest big time performance and Boston's season sweep over Washington when the Q&A was briefly interrupted.
"Get that man to the All-Star Game," one his teammates bellowed at the group from across the locker room.
Thomas is worthy of inclusion for the upcoming 2016 game in Toronto. Wizards coach Randy Wittman, one of the coaches tasked with picking the Eastern Conference reserves, said pregame, " I think he's having one of those years, I really do."
We'll know Thursday afternoon who is in. If Thomas gets his first-ever All-Star nod, it just might come at the expense of John Wall.
Before the outrage over such a notion turns you from Bruce Banner to the Incredible Hunk, realize nobody would suggest Wall isn't worthy, but also note not all think he's a lock.
The two-time All-Star leads the Wizards in scoring with 19.6 points and is tied for second in the NBA with 9.7 assists per game. The double-double machine was selected Eastern Conference Player of the Month in December and recently Player of the Week in January. Take him off the Wizards and the focus is already on draft lottery ping-pong balls. Smart money says All-Star appearance number three is happening this year.
But Thomas' case is also strong. Same goes for other guards and players in the mix for the other seven spots.
As a reminder, coaches must vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards, but not any of their own players.
Fans voted in Miami's Dwyane Wade based on the three-time NBA champions past, thus taking away one spot. Toronto's Kyle Lowry will also start. No issue there.
DeMar DeRozan, Lowry's backcourt partner with the Raptors and a savant this season with generating free throw opportunities, is ninth in scoring with 23.2 points. Impressive, yet Chicago's Jimmy Butler owns the title of best two-guard in the East.
Andre Drummond, Chris, Bosh and Paul Millsap are strong candidates if not the likely choices for the three frontcourt spots. Pau Gasol and Al Horford have their backers.
If we give Anthony, Gasol or Anthony one wild card spot, one remains. There will be five guards some way somehow. For now, let's assume Kyrie Irving missing a chunk of the season with injury takes him off the board.
These selections are not viewed as head-to-head choices big picture, but that surely changes when we're talking about perhaps the final spot. If so, Thomas' camp can make a strong case over Wall.
Thomas averages 21.7 points, ranking 12th in the NBA. Averaging 27 points in Boston's four-game season sweep over Wall and Washington helps. Two of those wins are within the last 10 days, meaning recency bias could be in play.
Not that the two are matched up every minute, but Thomas averaged 27 points, 6.2 assists and 47.8 percent on 3-pointers in four games against Wall and the Wizards this season.
"Numbers don't lie," Celtics forward Jae Crowder said about whether there's extra motivation for Thomas in this matchup. "That's all I can say."
There's more than just numbers in Thomas' favor. Along with Crowder, he's the straw that stirs the drink for Boston, now the fifth seed in the East. His ability to shoot from deep, scoot inside and feed open teammates puts defenders in a "pick your poison" scenario, Wizards guard Garrett Temple noted after the Wizards latest loss. Thomas, who produces against others besides Washington, had nine assists in the 116-91 romp.
"Every night you’re facing one of the top guys in the NBA, so you’ve got to be up for that, you’ve got to be motivated. And I’m a competitor, so whether you put John Wall or anybody out there, I just want to outplay them and get the win," he said.
Wall admittedly wasn't playing at his best the first month of the season. Unlike Boston, Washington is currently outside the playoff picture. Every player mentioned above plays for a team with a better winning percentage than the Wizards. If one seeks a tiebreaker, such things matter.
It's possible Wall and Thomas hear good news this week. Both are worthy of an All-Star bid. If the coaches on their respective ballots decide only three guards go, they might pick one or the other.