RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

Isaiah Thomas, driving on Utah's Alec Burks, has averaged 18.2 points in the past five games. The Kings have lost all five.

Thomas trying to lead Kings out of funk

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013 - 4:18 pm

MIAMI – After each Kings loss, point guard Isaiah Thomas has to censor himself.

There's so much more Thomas wants to say, but he knows being a leader means he must use discretion.

The losing bothers Thomas more than it does some of his teammates, who still are able to laugh and crack jokes in the locker room after games.

Thomas might crack a smile, but he's solemn most nights.

That's because the Kings lose on most nights, and Thomas can't accept that life in the NBA has to be that way.

Although Thomas, a second-year guard, is playing perhaps the best basketball of his career, he's not enjoying his statistics. Instead, he's racking his brain, trying to figure out what more he can do to help the Kings win.

Thomas fancies himself a winner, and putting up good statistics on a losing team is not how he wants to establish himself in the league.

"I've got to get wins as the point guard of this team," Thomas said. "I've got to turn those good games into wins."

Wins have been hard to come by for the Kings (19-38), who have lost five games in a row for the third time this season.

During the streak, Thomas has averaged 18.2 points on 46-percent shooting to go with 4.8 assists.

"He's playing very well," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "He's obviously trying to make plays for guys. Sometimes in games he's made passes where he should have had more assists … but it's because of his teammate not making the shot."

It will be difficult for the Kings to end their losing streak tonight; they play the NBA champion Miami Heat, which has won 11 consecutive games.

Thomas has had two of his best games against the Heat with 24 points last season and a career-high 34 points on Jan. 12, but the Kings lost both games.

Thomas said he studies video trying to find things he can do to improve the team and his own play. And he tries to be the hardest-working player, leading by example.

But it's hard to be a leader when the losses continue to pile up.

"Like I told these guys last year, 'If I get on you, I expect you to listen,' " Thomas said. "But I also expect you to get on me, and I think they respect that. But everything is difficult when you're losing, and it makes it that much harder. Hopefully we can turn that around and get a couple wins on this road trip."

Smart said Thomas is managing the team better and making better decisions, and he doesn't worry about Thomas putting in the work needed to improve.

"He still has his moments where he won't see a guy or should have passed it when he shot the ball," Smart said. "But you definitely can see things in his game that's moving him to that next level.

"And what that next level might be, it might not be one of the top seven, eight, 10 guys in our league at that position. But he's definitely, every night, putting pressure on the opponent's defense."

Thomas will be happier if that pressure translates into victories.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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