TUALATIN, Ore. — When Dallas guard JJ Barea dropped 22 points against the Lakers one game in these playoffs, then 21 against the Thunder the next, you can bet former Washington Huskies guard Isaiah Thomas was among those cheering.
Not because he has any particular relationship with Barea, but because at 5-foot-9, Thomas knows that if there is one little guy scoring at will, NBA scouts might think he can do the same.
The 22-year-old was one of six players taking part in a pre-draft workout with the Trail Blazers at their practice facility, and when asked if he was Barea’s biggest fan, Thomas gave an answer you might expect.
“Right now I am,” he said. “Guys like JJ Barea are doing a great job. I feel like I can play that type of role.”
DraftExpress.com currently has Thomas going as the No. 23 pick in the second round, which would put him two spots below Portland’s 51st overall pick. He stood out at Washington even if he never stood tall — averaging 16.4 points and 4.0 assists in his three years with the Huskies. He also hit the game-winning jumper as time expired in the Pac-10 Tournament championship game against Arizona.
But that, of course, was college.
This is the NBA.
So even with the success of players such as Barea, how can he expect to contribute in this league when he stands just 69 inches tall?
“I would tell people that this is not the first time I’ve played against people taller than me,” Thomas said.
Fair point. And actually, Blazers coach Nate McMillan has known Thomas when he was even littler than he is now.
Thomas used to play with McMillan’s son Jamelle when the two were boys, and he played against him when Jamelle attended Arizona State. Thomas admits seeing McMillan on the sideline Monday was a little … different.
“It’s a little weird,” Thomas said. “Now he’s really evaluating me. The times before he was just watching his son. It’s a little weird having someone you know watching you like that.”
Then again, McMillan is not the only member of the Blazers with whom Thomas has a relationship. Isaiah is also close to former Husky Brandon Roy, who has preached to Thomas the merits of “just going out and having fun” during these workouts. Thomas has been able to do that to a certain extent, asserting that once he gets on the court, he forgets about everybody watching.
Acting Blazers general manager Chad Buchanan made the comparisons to Barea as well on Monday, saying that Thomas had a “very good workout” and is a solid all-around player who was making mid-range jumpers throughout the morning.
Plus, Thomas was around some familiar company.
Forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning was Thomas’ teammate at Washington for the past three years and was one of the six players working out in Tualatin on Monday.
Bryan-Amaning said he was pleased with his workout and the chance to go up against projected first-round pick Kenneth Faried, whom Buchanan said he matched up well against.
So it was it nice to have Thomas joining him on the floor?
“When he was on my team, yes,” Bryan-Amaning said. “When he wasn’t, no.”