High School Sports

How did Isaiah Thomas land an NBA all-star for this weekend’s celebrity tournament?

Washington Wizards guard John Wall will be in town this weekend to play in Isaiah Thomas’ tournament.
Washington Wizards guard John Wall will be in town this weekend to play in Isaiah Thomas’ tournament. AP

As if two-time All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas hasn’t built enough cache around the NBA, he still recruits, just in case.

Thomas, 28, loves the idea of holding a hometown celebrity basketball tournament, and his Zeke-End event is in its fourth year.

The three-day tournament starts Friday at Tacoma Community College, and is open to the public.

But during his real-job season in the NBA as the leader of the Boston Celtics, wherever he goes, and whoever he bumps into on the court, he will happen to mention he has a first-rate tournament in Tacoma in need of teams.

Most of the guys who have agreed to come out are former or current NBA teammates.

From Sacramento, which drafted Thomas with the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, guard Ben McLemore has played in it. From Phoenix, where Thomas played from 2014-15, guards Eric Bledsoe and Archie Goodwin have formed a team. And from Boston, a whole slew of players have appeared, including guard Gerald Green and former Bellarmine Prep standout Avery Bradley.

But this season, Thomas got a surprise volunteer.

It was during All-Star weekend in New Orleans. Thomas, a former Curtis High School and University of Washington product, was hanging out with his Eastern Conference teammates when Washington Wizards superstar John Wall approached him.

“He brought up my (tournament),” Thomas said. “He said, ‘I have to come to your basketball weekend.’ ”

Thomas said he did not think much about it at the time, but when the Celtics hosted Washington a month later, Wall mentioned it again.

The two teams also met in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Boston prevailed in seven games to advance to play Cleveland in the conference finals.

“When the season ended, I asked him,” Thomas said. “It’s nice that guys like that want to come support it.”

Wall is easily the biggest name Thomas has attracted in the four years of the tournament. The four-time All Star was selected to the all-NBA first team for the first time last season after averaging a career high 27.2 points per game, ranking ninth in the league.

In the playoffs, Wall also hit arguably the biggest shot for his team in years, canning a last-second 3-pointer to win Game 6 in Washington.

Those are good enough credentials for Thomas, who has hand-picked Wall to play for him while he coaches his team this weekend.

“He is definitely the superstar,” Thomas said.

With a torn labrum in his hip, Thomas is still a few weeks away from determining if he will need surgery or not. He said it has felt a lot better, but he still can’t run.

But he will coach — well, when he has to.

“I let the players play,” Thomas joked. “It is a player’s game. I am going to be chilling.”