While the Finals were an amazing ride for Mavs fans and LeBron haters everywhere, those two oft-overlapping demos weren’t the only ones who were smiling when the clock ticked down as Dallas defeated the Heat to win the NBA Championship on Sunday night. Somewhere in the United States, former University of Washington guard Isaiah Thomas was watching J.J Barea weave through traffic, drill three-pointers and ball his way to 15 points on 7-for-12 field goals, one game after dropping 17 points on the Heat while connecting on 4-for-5 three-pointers.
And, just a guess, he was probably among those smiling. After all, he’s a big fan of the littlest Mav.
When Thomas, generously listed at 5-foot-9, worked out for the Toronto Raptors last week, he had lots of praise for Barea’s game, saying,”You guys see guards like J.J. Barea who is helping me out tremendously. He’s just proving people wrong and I’m doing the same thing.”
While undersized scorers have recently rejoiced with the emergence of players like Monta Ellis, Toney Douglas and Lou Williams, you’ve got to believe that Barea’s success is doing the same sort of wonders for the confidence of those guys who are just a few inches shorter than the usual speedy waterbug guard.
If you’re looking for someone to root for in this draft, stick with Thomas. He’s passionate and proud with a personality that’s over-the-top in comparison to most guys going through the pre-draft circuit. He’s having fun and truly seems to recognize how much of a blessing it is to even have the opportunity to seek out his dream of being a professional basketball player.
While future lottery picks are dodging competition, Thomas is salivating for it. “I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder,” Thomas said. “I told my agent, every workout, I want to be against the top dudes. Brandon Knights, the Kemba Walkers, all of them. Show I’m as good as them and I can compete with them. I’m just out here playing hard and having fun.”
What else should you know about Thomas? In his words: “I don’t feel 5-9. I feel like I’m as tall as them when I’m out there.” Sounds about right. Ask Barea and you’re likely to get a variation of the same answer. One thing this league could use more of is little guys making it to the top.