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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas earns first All-Star nod

BOSTON -- Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad as a coach-voted reserve Thursday night.

Thomas is the first Celtics All-Star of the Brad Stevens era and the first star since Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo were named to the 2013 squad.

For the 5-foot-9 Thomas, the 60th and final pick in the 2011 draft, this is his first All-Star appearance in his fifth NBA season. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Thomas becomes the lowest draft pick of any player to earn an All-Star nod since the NBA went to two rounds in 1989.

Thomas is only the ninth player in league history under 6 feet to make an All-Star team and the second player at his height or smaller to make the All-Star Game, joining 5-foot-9 Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy, who made his lone All-Star appearance in 1979.

Shortly after his All-Star announcement, Thomas took to Twitter to thank fans and teammates for helping him to his first All-Star appearance.

In a series of tweets, Thomas wrote: “I am honored to be selected as an All-Star and represent the Celtics, joining the greatest of Celtics who have played in the All-Star game. I'm very grateful for all the support I have been given by the greatest fans in the world and of course the Celtics organization. This is a team award, none of us succeed without our teammates and their support on and off the court. So thanks to my team and coaching staff."

While waiting to hear about his All-Star fate, Thomas stressed how much an All-Star nod would mean to him.

“It would mean the world to me. I feel like I deserve it," said Thomas. "Numbers don’t lie and my team is winning. My team is playing at a high level. One thing I just always worry about is the things I can control. I can’t control who votes for me or if they say my name [Thursday]. But I can control what I do out there on the court.

Coaches voted this week on seven reserves including two backcourt players and two wildcards to fill out the 12-man rosters. Thomas was hoping the 14 other Eastern Conference coaches not named Brad Stevens found a spot for him (coaches can't vote for their own players), but was at peace knowing he had done all he could to state his case on the court.

"I felt like I’ve put myself in a pretty good position, especially with my team being the fifth seed now in the East and winning games lately. So hopefully my name is called. But if it’s not, I’m going to just keep going, keep grinding, keep pushing."

By now you've probably heard the case for Thomas' inclusion: He's averaging 21.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 1.1 steals over 32.4 minutes per game. Thomas is one of only five players averaging 21-plus points, 6-plus assists, and 1-plus steal per game this season and the others form a veritable All-Star team in Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and James Harden. Thomas is the only player in that group averaging less than three turnovers per game.

Effusive in his praise throughout the month of January while stumping for Thomas' All-Star inclusion, Stevens reaffirmed that notion on Wednesday night.

"I sure hope [Thomas is an All-Star]," said Stevens. "I don’t know what the chances are. I know that however many coaches there are vote for it. He sure deserves it. I hope that he makes it from the standpoint of how hard he works, how much time he puts in, how much of an impact he’s had on us. But I think it would also be a feather in the cap of his teammates because, as much as he lifts them up, it’s been a great situation for him, and they’ve been a big part of that. I hope that happens."

With the Nuggets visiting Boston on Wednesday, Denver coach Mike Malone, who coached Thomas in Sacramento, noted he believes Thomas is an All-Star as well.

"Isaiah and I remain close, love him as a person and as a player," said Malone. "A guy I did not want to lose while I was in Sacramento, in our second season. He’s got a chip on his shoulder. Last pick in the draft, he has that keep on 'doubting me' attitude. He loves being in the gym, he’s a guy you love being around, and that’s why I think he’s worthy of an All-Star reserve spot this year, which I hope he gets. He’s worked very hard, you look at his numbers and he’s a guy who deserves to be on that team."

Malone offered his view on where Thomas has grown since early in his NBA career.

"Playmaking. He’s a scorer. What happens a lot of times is people try to change players. Isaiah has been a scorer his whole life -- high school, college, [when] I had him at Sacramento. I didn’t want him to become John Stockton. He’s never going to be John Stockton. Take him for who he is. But, within that, I told him you have to be a guy who can run his team, make the right decision with the ball. When you’ve done your job of drawing two defenders, then make the right play.

"He’s just under 7 assists right now, he has a 3-1 [assist-to-turnover] ratio. His playmaking ability and the ability to value the basketball, then on the other end just being solid defensively. But he’s always been a guy who can score. He can score in his sleep. But it was the other things that he needed to improve upon and he’s done that. He’s made a concerted effort to do so."