Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thomas, Smart heading to Toronto

For the first time in his career, Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas has been selected as an All-Star reserve for the Eastern Conference. The 60th overall pick (last player selected) of the 2011 draft, joins Hall-of-famer Calvin Murphy as the only 5-foot-9 or under player to ever be selected to an NBA All-Star game.

"I've watched [Thomas] since he's come into the game," Murphy said. "I get pissed when people start talking about how good he is because of his size. He's good because he's good." [ESPN Boston]

Thomas, who was originally brought in as a sixth man last year from Phoenixhas put together a great first half of the season for Boston averaging 21.8 points, 6.7 assists, 1.1 steals in 32.4 minutes per game as a starter. He's only one of five players in the NBA averaging better than 21-plus points, 6-plus assists and 1-plus steal per contest. Others on that list include Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and James Harden, who are all also heading to Toronto next month.

"It is [important]," Thomas said. "I just worked so hard. I feel like I deserve it. Not just the individual success, but as a team. We've been winning lately, we're fifth in the East, and we're playing at a high level right now. And on top of that, the numbers don't lie. You can stack the numbers up against anybody in the NBA and they'd be there." [ESPN Boston]

Thomas becomes the lowest selected draftee ever to be invited to the All-Star game since the NBA went to two rounds in the draft in 1989, and the ninth player under 6-feet overall.

Boston native, Dana Barros, who's 5'11, was an NBA All-Star back in the 1994-95 season (his first and only selection) with the Philadelphia 76ers. Barros, now a Celtics consultant, remembers what it was like to be recognized as one of the game's best despite his height.

"All-Star is instantly recognizable," said Barros. "A second-grader knows what an All-Star is. Or a 98-year-old who has never watched sports knows what that means. That title of All-Star is validation of what you accomplished and what you worked for." [ESPN Boston]

Barros gets to see first hand the work Isaiah Thomas has put in on a daily basis, and is still amazed by how he's able to find multiple ways of scoring.

"He does it with an array [of scoring moves]," Barros said. "Me, I was able to score so much easier than most scorers. I'd come down and they wouldn't expect me to shoot from 2 feet behind the [3-point] line. He's not doing that. He's taking punishment. It's a testament to how he's doing it, at his size, and to be averaging 21 points per game. It's amazing." [ESPN Boston]

You can watch the 2016 NBA All-Star game on TNT Sunday February 14 at 9 PM EST. 

Smart heading up North to represent team USA

Celtics guard Marcus Smart will take part in the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star's Friday night (February 12th on TNT) next month in Toronto.

Smart, known for his defensive hustle, will be one of 10 first and second year players selected to the United States roster against a team of international youngsters. Despite missing 18 games this season due to a knee injury, and not being invited to last year's event, the second year guard is happy and shocked at the same time about the invitation.

"Actually, I was surprised," Smart said of being selected. "I thought I missed just as many games this year as I did last year. I didn’t get chosen last year, so I figured the same thing was going to happen this year. But it’s a blessing. It’s something you accept and I thank God for giving me the ability to do it. I’m happy and my teammates have been happy for me. They have been congratulating me and everything." [ESPN Boston]

The sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft is averaging 9-points, 4.4-rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.73 steals per game so far this season.

Here's a look at the both team's roster that will compete in Toronto:

Team USA-

Jordan Clarkson - L.A. Lakers
Rodney Hood - Jazz
Zach Lavine - Timberwolves
Nerlens Noel - 76ers
Jahlil Okafor -76ers
Jabari Parker - Bucks
Elfrid Payton - Magic
D'Angelo Russell - L.A. Lakers
Marcus Smart - Celtics
Karl-Anthony Towns - Timberwolves

Team World-

Bojan Bogdanovic - Nets
Clint Capela - Rockets
Nikola Mirotic - Bulls
Raul Neto - Jazz
Emmanuel Mudiay - Nuggets
Dwight Powell - Mavericks
Kristaps Porzingis - Knicks
Andrew Wiggins - Timberwolves

Joel Pavón
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