Thomas never had doubts that he'd be used, but he wanted to put the ball up, not just pass it around. That became a sore point between him and Scotty Robertson, the Pistons' coach from 1980 to '83. Never enamored of the Detroit area, Thomas, a native of Chicago, talked about leaving the Pistons at the conclusion of his contract. He has stayed, of course, and has become the premier point guard in the NBA.
Says Daly, "I have no qualms about Isiah shooting at all. There are times that I'd love to put him at the shooting guard spot. Isiah plays for the sheer enjoyment of the game, and for him that's being the little man taking the ball to the hoop. But now teams are playing him for that, so I've been trying to get him to take the jumper, to be more aware of situations."
"I think things like judgment and control are going to be a problem for me throughout my career," says Thomas, who free-lanced his way to the MVP trophy at last month's All-Star Game. "But when I play, I'm not thinking about judgment or control—I'm just doing what I think it takes to win."
As a result, there are times when Thomas makes Daly want to tear his hair out. A perfect example occurred in the game against the Spurs at the Silver-dome. Leading a two-on-one fast break, Thomas looked off the defender, 7'2" Artis Gilmore, then went up to try to dunk over him. The ball hit the heel of the rim and caromed out near midcourt, and the Pistons eventually lost possession. Any sort of pass would have been preferable, but little guys love to take advantage of their rare opportunities to throw one down against a big man.
Still, Thomas and Daly are in synch most of the time. Under Daly, Thomas. says he has felt "an incredible surge of freedom," indeed so much so that he has talked about signing a lifetime contract with the Pistons. "I really decided that I wanted to stay here over last summer," Thomas says. "I have a chance to be on Detroit's first division winner, maybe its first championship team ever. I like being the first to do things."
The Pistons NBA champions? Now that would be an ending worthy of a paperback romance.