The NBA trade deadline can be a stressful time.
So you’ll forgive Georges Niang if he seemed a little on edge as Utah Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey made his way toward basket where Niang was practicing on Wednesday afternoon.
“Oh shoot. What is happening right now? Am I gone?” were the thoughts running through Niang’s mind.
Lindsey asked the Jazz forward, “What do you think about Matt Thomas?”
“I love Matt Thomas,” Niang replied. “He’s the best.”
“Well, he’s your new teammate now,” Lindsey said.
A day after the Jazz acquired the sharpshooting Thomas from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a draft pick, Niang was still smiling at the thought of reuniting with his old Iowa State teammate.
“I’m ecstatic,” Niang said. “I’m really excited.”
The Jazz are happy with their deadline day move, too.
Thomas, a 6-foot-4 guard, has shot 45.8 percent from 3-point territory in his two years in the NBA.
“You can’t have too much shooting,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. “Just one more sniper on the team.”
Thomas, 26, has averaged 4.1 points per game in his 67 career appearances with the Raptors. In Utah, Niang believes his old college buddy will find a way to overcome some of the defensive questions that limited his playing time in Toronto.
“When you have the cheat code with Rudy Gobert behind you, it allows us to pressure up into the ball and force guys to the rim. As long as you can stay on your guy’s hip or semi in front, it’s like, ‘Good luck,’” Niang said. “There’s going to be a learning curve but Matt picks things up pretty quickly. He’ll learn our schemes and how to stay out of different areas that could give him trouble and play to his strengths.”
Thomas, who will wear No. 21 for the Jazz, was expected to travel to Salt Lake City on Thursday for his physical.
“He has Jazz DNA,” Niang said. “He’s a great person. He can really shoot the ball and I think the way we paly really fits his game.”
After hearing the news Wednesday, Niang hurried through the rest of his shooting reps and raced to FaceTime his friend while he packed for Utah.
Thomas and Niang lived across the hall from each other for three years at Iowa State. On the court, they helped the Cyclones establish themselves as one of the Big 12’s top men’s basketball programs. “Obviously he’s a great player. He helped me out a lot in college. When I did pass him the ball, he was making a lot of shots,” Niang said. Off the court, Niang and Thomas made even bigger plans. Now they’ll get a chance to live them out as the Utah Jazz make a push toward the NBA playoffs.
“When you get to experience the things you and your college buddy talked about on the couch in your apartment, about making it to the next level, it’s pretty surreal that we get to live it together now,” Niang said.