Isaiah Thomas sees something “really special” in Nuggets rookie Bones Hyland. And he wants to help.

If Isaiah Thomas isn’t awake when the text lands, he’ll respond as soon as he gets up.

That’s the relationship Thomas, now with the Charlotte Hornets, and Nuggets rookie Bones Hyland have developed since the start of the season.

Months ago, at the request of Nuggets president Tim Connelly and assistant coach Charles Klask, Thomas connected with Denver’s rookie. Since then, the longtime NBA veteran has made a point of watching the Nuggets.

“He’s really special,” Thomas told The Denver Post this past week. “I love watching his game.”

Few players in the NBA have seen the business end of professional basketball like Thomas, who’s now played for 10 franchises, including the Nuggets, throughout his underdog career. Amid tragedy and triumph, there’s little he hasn’t seen. His institutional knowledge, not to mention his perseverance, has a lot to do with why the Hornets brought him in in the first place.

Early on in their relationship, Thomas told Hyland to reach out with any questions he had, including the ones he might be embarrassed to ask. And that’s how Hyland first distinguished himself to Thomas. Yes, Thomas was impressed by Hyland’s devastating first step and his unyielding confidence, but he also sensed a rookie hungry for more.

“The NBA and professional sports, a lot of it is about pride,” Thomas said. “If you don’t got no pride, you’re willing to take in all the information that anybody’s able to give you. And he’s been that since we met.”

Either via text or call, Thomas said the two check in weekly. The veteran reinforces routine, emphasizes watching film and reminds Hyland what makes him special.

“He texts me, ‘That joy that you bring to the Nuggets is unmatched,’” said Hyland, who was Denver’s third-leading scorer (14.3 points) and leading 3-point shooter in March.

There’s more than just that, though. Thomas has also reinforced the attribute that’s made Hyland an invaluable piece throughout the second half of the season and will, almost assuredly, make him part of the playoff rotation.

“I’ll send a text out of nowhere, ‘Just keep your pace’ because his pace is special,” said Thomas, unintentionally acting as an extension of Denver’s coaching staff. “His pace reminds me of LaMelo (Ball). You can’t teach that.”

As a resource, Hyland knows he can go to Thomas for anything. And in turn, Hyland has found a like-minded player cut from the same cloth. The precocious rookie entered Friday’s game with 121 3-pointers on the season, second-most among all rookies.

“He has a killer mindset at all times,” Hyland said. “That’s something that I have in my game.”

Their relationship grew even while navigating the chaotic travel schedules of two NBA players, and it wasn’t until this past Monday, when the Nuggets were in Charlotte, that Thomas and Hyland had ever actually met in person. The distance didn’t impact their connection.

“It’s all of it,” Thomas said. “Mentorship, friendship, brotherhood, I’m here for all the younger guys, but I’m here for guys who want information and who want to get better because I was in those same shoes trying to find guys that can help me throughout my NBA career.

“He’s a great kid, he takes information in really well, he asks questions all the time,” Thomas continued. “That’s the biggest thing probably with the younger guys, them (being) scared to ask questions. He’s a guy, he’ll text me in the middle of the night about some stuff that happened in the game and what he should do. I’m in his corner. I’m a big fan of his game. I’m a big fan of the person he is.”

Some texts are as practical as asking how Thomas handles double-teams when operating in the pick-and-roll. Other times, if Hyland is stumped by a defensive scheme, Thomas will tell him to go back and watch film, processing the scheme on his own time. But all of their conversations — and perhaps the reason both players understand each other so well — revolve around their shared language: confidence.

“That’s what makes you special,” Thomas explained to Hyland earlier this season. “Not giving a damn, not giving a (expletive) about missing shots, having turnovers, having bad games and just remaining confident.”

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