Ronald Martinez Associated Press Denver's Kenneth Faried dunks for two of his 40 points. He had 10 rebounds and was the Rising Stars Challenge MVP.

NBA All-Star notes: Thomas enjoys a big night in Rising Stars Challenge

Published: Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 - 8:15 am

HOUSTON – Isaiah Thomas probably won't enjoy too many nights like this one. The opposing team scored 135 points. His team scored 163 points.

And talk about playing to an audience. In front of a capacity Toyota Center crowd that included his parents, NBA executives, NBA stars and assorted celebrities, the Kings' point guard contributed 18 points, grabbed five rebounds, passed for five rebounds, and tied Ricky Rubio with 10 assists. He wasn't the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge – that was Denver's Kenneth Faried – and he didn't dunk. "I wanted to!" Thomas said afterward with a grin.

But Thomas did everything else. He stole balls, threw lob passes, and converted four of his six three-point attempts. He enjoyed himself immensely.

"Just being around, seeing my mom and dad (Tina Baldtrip and James Thomas) happy, smiling, taking pictures of everybody," Thomas added. "That was probably the best thing for me. And we got the win. That made it even better."

Before leaving the building, the 5-foot-9 Thomas also provided the quote of the night. When a journalist from overseas asked how he compensates for his lack of length, he replied, "I don't feel short. You're only as short as you feel. I have a big heart. Don't ever let anybody ever tell you that you can't be what you want to be."

Hall of Fame – Former Kings guard Mitch Richmond, one of the finalists for the 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, was joined on the list by Tim Hardaway, one of his teammates during the Golden State Warriors' electric Run TMC years.

Chris Mullin, the other member of the group, was inducted into the Hall two years ago.

Other NBA finalists include Bernard King, Spencer Haywood, Maurice Cheeks, Gary Payton, Spencer Haywood and Tommy Heinsohn. Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian, Sylvia Hatchell, Dawn Staley and Guy Lewis completed the list of finalists.

Vlade Divac, who was among the original nominees, will have to wait at least another year. Longtime Brazilian star Oscar Schmidt – the sharpshooter who famously lobbied for Larry Bird's autograph at the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in 1992 – was one of five Directed Electeds named to the Hall on Friday.

Isaiah knows Charles – Isaiah Thomas is a pretty good history student, apparently. When he was asked three quick-hit questions about Charles Barkley, he answered all three correctly. He noted that Barkley was the leading scorer on the 1992 Dream Team, that Sir Charles' favorite "Inside the NBA" co-host is Ernie Johnson, and he imitated the way the Chuckster says terrible. "Tuuuurrrrrrible."

Popovich knows coaching – San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, coach of the Western Conference team for Sunday's All-Star Game, never fails to offer some insight.

Asked how much of coaching involves off-court elements, he replied: "A great deal. I think the psychological and people person part is important. I think all the coaches know about the X's and O's. But I think coaching is more about consistency and being able to make demands in the right way so players accept and want to be part of that, convincing people to accept roles and make them feel important in those roles. All those parts of coaching are underrated."

Those ACL tears – Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose continues to recover from a torn knee ligament he suffered during the first round of the 2012 playoffs, and his absence from All-Star Weekend – and the recent rash of knee ligament tears and requisite surgery – was noted by several players.

"It (recovery) gets a little monotonous at times," Blake Griffin said about the surgery and recovery, "but it's one of those things that you have to keep going, and keep promising yourself that you're going to come out on the other side. Just honestly, listen to your body. If (Rose is) unsure, just listen to your body and don't force it."

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