I’m that guy playing pickup basketball like it’s the NBA Finals. While half the guys are messing around or practicing their And-1 Mix Tape moves, I’m going for the win. When it happens, I have a mini victory parade inside. When it doesn’t, I’m thinking about it for a while — what plays did I mess up? How can I win next time?
That’s what makes it so difficult for me to say this.
Some players are more important than wins and losses. Sometimes entertainment, character, desire and commitment is more important than a faceless superstar with supreme talent.
I know. I hesitate to even say that. And I’ve wanted to erase it.
But any long-time Kings fan has to have a little sense of what I’m talking about. And no player truly embodies this concept more than Isaiah Thomas.
If you’ve been a Kings fan since Day One, you surely followed some putrid teams. I grew up in the 90s, watching the Kings limp to the 20-win mark year after year. Funny thing is, I loved those teams. It was a collection of lovable losers. You had your star doing everything he could in Mitch Richmond, surrounded by quirky, energetic, personable contributors — Spud Webb, Michael Smith, Walt Williams…the list goes on.
I wanted to win as much as anyone. One of my first sports memories is crying as a young boy in the kitchen when the Kings were eliminated on the last day of the 1995 season by Denver. We were so close to finally winning. The pain was deep.
Nonetheless, I loved those teams and loved watching Kings basketball. They didn’t have the talent, but they always left it all on the floor. They were SACRAMENTO’s team.
Kings fans have since been rewarded with a sustained playoff run that really spoiled us. It was followed by a dark period where the players didn’t care and really had no personality. Face it, we’re all going to watch, but did you really get enjoyment from John Salmons or Spencer Hawes while the team got its brains bashed in on a nightly basis?
That brings us to today. The Sacramento Kings are on the verge of turning the corner with a dedicated front office, an invigorated fan base and an increasing amount of talented pieces. Everyone is committed to get this thing rolling. The leader of that movement is Isaiah Thomas.
Isaiah exemplifies the Sacramento spirit perhaps more than any player in franchise history. A lifelong underdog. A tireless worker. Untapped potential. The 5’9″ point guard plays every game like it’s his last, and he’s damn good, too. When the game ends, he smiles and expresses his gratitude to the city. Rather than hole up in his home, he makes unscripted appearances at important city events. It’s a two-way love affair. Sacramento respects hard work as much as any city in the NBA. When you add in talent and personality, there’s nothing better.
That’s why it is imperative that the Kings do everything they can to bring Isaiah back. Could his increasing price tag put a minor strain on the Kings cap? It could. Did the Kings only win 28 games with Isaiah at PG? They did. Can Darren Collison lead Sacramento to as many wins at a cheaper cost? He might.
But Isaiah’s value extends so far beyond the basketball court. He’s a leader, a community icon, and he’s not done growing as a player. He needs to be here when things turn around. And if he stays and the losing continues — he needs to be here to provide Kings fans with a reason to stay tuned in. Furthermore, pinning the recent years of losing on the one player whose drive and work ethic could never be questioned is probably a poor decision in itself.
We went through a similar situation last year with Tyreke Evans. Sacramento had a chance to match a big offer to a homegrown player and passed. But while I loved Tyreke and the jolt of energy he provided this team, I didn’t mind the decision of Kings brass. Tyreke, while supremely talented, didn’t have the same charisma as Isaiah Thomas.
And yes, basing personnel decisions on personality and a positive attitude is probably not the best recipe. But you have to factor it in. And in any metric, I’ll take Isaiah Thomas and take my chances.
Win or lose, he’s who I want to see. I don’t think I’m alone. Help us out, Kings.