Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — Lance Thomas admits there were times last year when he wondered if he would ever make it to the NBA from the D-League.
“I just knew I had to work that much harder to basically show I can play at this level,” the Brooklyn-born Thomas told SNY.tv Friday night at Madison Square Garden before the New Orleans Hornets snapped the Knicks’ seven-game winning streak, 89-85.
“So I did everything in my power. I got stronger, I improved a lot on my offensive game. I even improved more on the defensive end. I just found a way.”
And now it’s paid off.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the Hornets called up the 6-foot-8 Thomas, a former Duke and St. Benedict’s Prep standout.
He had been averaging 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 32.6 minutes with the Austin Toros.
Thomas, 23, logged eight minutes against the Knicks, scoring 2 points and grabbing 1 rebound. Since the call-up, he’s averaging 2.0 points and 2.3 boards.
While playing for Dan Hurley at St. Benedict’s, Thomas famously chose Duke over Rutgers at the last minute before announcing his decision at a press conference.
(Another former Hurley product, J.R. Smith, was signed by the Knicks Friday.)
He then evolved into a solid glue guy at Duke, helping them win the NCAA championship in 2010, when he averaged 4.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Thomas went undrafted and spent the 2010-11 season with the Toros, averaging 12.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 29.9 minutes.
He is now working on his second 10-day contract and said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and assistant Steve Wojciechowski have congratulated him “plenty of times.”
“They’re very happy for me,” he said.
Asked if there was pressure to perform on a 10-day contract, Thomas said, “There is, but this is what I prepared for. This is where I want to be, this is what I worked hard for. So instead of it being a pressure 10 days, I’m just going to go and just be confident playing.”
Thomas had about a dozen family and friends at Friday’s game, but admitted it was hard to get tickets because of all the Linsanity.
“It was hard to get tickets with Jeremy Lin playing the way he’s playing,” Thomas said. ”
Thomas played against Lin in the D-League and knows all about Linsanity.
“Man, he’s a good player,” Thomas said. “He’s a really good player. I’m happy for him.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.