Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, adamant recently that teammate Isaiah Thomas has not received enough attention for his play, can now consider Thomas recognized.
Thomas was named the NBA's Western Conference Rookie of the Month for February on Thursday, following a month in which the 5-foot-9 guard broke into the Kings' starting lineup and led all conference rookies with an average of 12.2 points per game.
Thomas is the first Kings player to earn the honor since guard Tyreke Evans in December 2009, and the fourth in team history.
Upon receiving the news via text, Thomas said, "I just smiled. It was unexpected. I didn't think I would get it. But it was nice."
Thomas, who made his first start for the Kings on Feb. 17 in Detroit, averaged 19.2 points in his first five starts prior to Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Thomas tied Otis Birdsong's franchise record for the most points by a Kings rookie in his first five starts (96), while the Kings had 21 or more assists in four of those five games.
Kings head coach Keith Smart said Thomas is getting more comfortable with managing games. Right now, Smart said, Thomas looks to him on most possessions and usually comes over to talk after a dead ball but does have the freedom to call a play himself.
"He's put a lot of trust in me," Thomas said. "I kind of go to him first, like what do you see out there, what do you want? And a lot of times he'll say, well, what do you want?"
Thomas said his counterpart Thursday night, Clippers guard Chris Paul, is one of the players after whom he tries to model his game.
Thomas attended two years of Paul's camp for guards in North Carolina while in college at Washington and said he also communicated with Paul sometimes via text.
"I asked him a couple questions in college about, how do you get guys to respect you? How do you get guys to listen to you and your way of leading?" Thomas said.
"He always told me, be the first one in the gym, the last one to leave, and be the hardest-working guy. So then at the end of the day, they can't tell you that you weren't the hardest-working guy."
Thomas said he and Paul did face off one-on-one a couple of times during drills at the camp.
Who came out on top in those matchups?
"I can't tell you," Thomas said with a grin. "Nah, he probably did.
"But I was in college. It's a new day now. I'm ready for him, and I know he's more than ready for me."