SANTA BARBARA New Kings point guard Greivis Vasquez has nothing bad to say about Isaiah Thomas.
As he puts it, he loves "the kid."
"I'm teammates with Isaiah, so if anybody in this league is going to say something about Isaiah, I'm going to step up for him because I'm his teammate," Vasquez said. "He's part of the family."
That doesn't mean Vasquez isn't out to take Thomas' job as starting point guard. Vasquez was acquired in the offseason after averaging an NBA third-best 9.0 assists per game with New Orleans.
Thomas began last season as the starting point guard after earning the job as a rookie, but he was soon replaced by veteran Aaron Brooks. Thomas eventually reclaimed the starting role and Brooks was bought out by the team.
This year, the obvious difference between point guards is size. Vasquez is 6-foot-6 and Thomas is 5-foot-9.
"He's tall and I'm short as hell," Thomas said with a laugh.
Though the difference in size is obvious, they are similar in many ways. Both have been doubted because of physical limitations.
Thomas' height has been an easy target for naysayers, who also point out he is more of a scorer than a facilitator (13.9 points, 4.0 assists per game last season).
Vasquez, who averaged 13.9 points last season, has never been described as fleet of foot, and his lack of athleticism has been cited as a liability on the defensive end.
But Vasquez is expected to help change the Kings' reputation as a selfish team.
"From playing (against) Greivis, you know his mindset is being a pass-first point guard," forward Jason Thompson said. "He's not the quickest of guards among point guards in the league, but he's a guy that's really big in size, can post up and can really use his body. Also, if there's double teams, he can look over the defense and get you the ball. Isaiah obviously isn't the tallest guy but has a huge heart, brings a lot of energy and can shoot the three ball."
Both players are noted for their leadership. And both jumped into the competition with vigor in the first practice of training camp at UC Santa Barbara, according to Kings coach Michael Malone.
"What I loved (Tuesday) is you've got two highly competitive players fighting for a starting job on this team that pushed each other, but they pushed each other the right way," Malone said.
"They weren't trying do anything dirty. They helped each other off the floor, they were giving each other high-fives knowing, hey, this is competition.
"And no matter what happens at the end of the day, we have two very talented point guards, and hopefully they're going to lead us to a lot of wins this year."
The size difference isn't considered a negative by Kings coaches, who expect to use both players in various scenarios.
"Of course we're going to play together," Thomas said. "It makes sense. I can guard point guards, he can guard shooting guards. Whichever one of us gets the ball on the break, we can just go."
Vasquez said his goal is to win games and he doesn't care who gets the credit.
But can a natural leader mesh with another leader? Both agree it's possible.
"I'll find a way to say things when I have to say them," Vasquez said. "He's going to say things when he has to because he's a leader."
Said Thomas: "I always say you can't make a leader. Either you're a leader or you're not, and he's a leader."