Spe­cial as­sis­tance

Bos­ton Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas get­ting help from Kobe Bryant

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY STEPHEN WHYNO

Isaiah Thomas is get­ting some praise, as­sis­tance and even a new nick­name from some of bas­ket­ball’s big­gest stars.

The Bos­ton Celtics guard said he’s been talk­ing and tex­ting with Kobe Bryant to get tips about his game. Thomas has got­ten text mes­sages from Allen Iver­son, Kevin Gar­nett, Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady and boxer Floyd May­weather, but Bryant has been in­stru­men­tal in help­ing the 5-foot-9 All-Star in re­cent weeks.

“I was at 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 was Kobe.”

Bos­ton Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas

Af­ter the Celtics were down 2-0 in the first round to Chicago, Thomas said he emailed video to Bryant and the five­time NBA cham­pion broke it down with him for 30 min­utes over the phone.

“Men­tally, he’s just on a dif­fer­ent level than any­body I’ve ever met,” Thomas said Wed­nes­day, less than 24 hours af­ter scor­ing 53 points in Game 2 against the Wash­ing­ton Wizards. “He watched ev­ery sec­ond, telling me what times to go to look at and cer­tain plays and things I didn’t look at when I watched film. Men­tally, you can tell he’s one of the great­est ever.”

Bryant first reached out af­ter Thomas’ sis­ter died in a car ac­ci­dent on the eve of the play­offs and stayed in touch, tex­ting him be­fore and af­ter each game to help with bas­ket­ball. Brush­ing off the fact that a Los An­ge­les Lak­ers great was help­ing a Celtics player, Thomas called the as­sist the cra­zi­est thing to hap­pen to him and wel­comed Bryant’s “Mighty IT” nick­name for him.

“I was at home in Wash­ing­ton, I was on the phone and my mom kept say­ing, ‘Who are you talk­ing to?”’ Thomas said. “I had to put it on mute and tell her it was Kobe.”

As Bryant of­fers help, the rest of the bas­ket­ball world is in awe of Thomas, who is av­er­ag­ing 28 points through eight play­off games and came up one shy of John Havlicek’s fran­chise post­sea­son record of 54 on Tues­day night.

Four-time MVP LeBron James called Thomas a “spe­cial guy, spe­cial talent,” es­pe­cially given what he’s go­ing through off the court af­ter the death of his sis­ter, Chyna.

“I just think she was just look­ing down on him and just giv­ing him any ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion, any lit­tle touch, any lit­tle spring,” James said. “When you’re on the court that’s your sanctuary and that’s where you can kind of block ev­ery­thing out no mat­ter what you’re go­ing through in your in­di­vid­ual life, block ev­ery­thing out be­cause that’s your happy place and it def­i­nitely showed for him in his in­di­vid­ual per­for­mance.”

Gar­nett re­cently said he’d ex­pect Thomas to con­tinue to play in­spired bas­ket­ball in his sis­ter’s mem­ory.

“It’s go­ing to be in ev­ery shot, it’s go­ing to be in ev­ery­thing that he does,” Gar­nett said. “I think we’re go­ing to see a spe­cial play­offs from Isaiah Thomas.”

With four 30-plus-point per­for­mances al­ready, he’s well on his way.

Bos­ton coach Brad Stevens isn’t sur­prised at how Thomas is deal­ing with the phys­i­cal strain of trav­el­ling home for his sis­ter’s fu­neral and play­ing at this high of a level. But he called Thomas’ abil­ity to han­dle the emo­tions “un­be­liev­able,” and that ad­mi­ra­tion ex­tends to the op­po­si­tion.

“He has the heart of a cham­pion,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.

“What he has gone through and what he’s able to do, you re­ally can’t ex­plain. I wouldn’t do it any jus­tice to put it into words. But what you’re see­ing is pretty in­cred­i­ble.”

Stevens said the most im­pres­sive thing about Thomas’ rise has been his abil­ity to ig­nore the adu­la­tion and con­tinue work­ing. That’s a chal­lenge that’s more dif­fi­cult ev­ery day as Thomas puts up points and gar­ners more re­spect and at­ten­tion.

“It doesn’t seem real,” Thomas said. “When I get done with games and I see text mes­sages from Kobe, Tom Brady and Floyd, all those types of guys that I’m try­ing to fol­low in their foot­steps, it says a lot. I’m just try­ing to con­tinue to keep go­ing as a bas­ket­ball player and as a per­son.”


Bos­ton Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas cel­e­brates with fans af­ter de­feat­ing the Wash­ing­ton Wizards 129-119 in a sec­ond-round NBA play­off se­ries game in Bos­ton on Tues­day.

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