Atlantic Notes: Thomas, McGee, Valanciunas

Isaiah Thomas, who has thrived since being acquired by the Celtics in a February trade, will continue to come off the bench because Boston coach Brad Stevens is more concerned with how his team finishes games, A. Sherrod Blakely of writes. Thomas, who was named Eastern Conference player of the week last week and who has three years and approximately $19.76MM remaining on his contract after this season, prefers to be a starter but his approach remains the same, Blakely added.

“The biggest thing is, he wants to start because he has a lot of pride and works really hard,” Stevens said. “Starting is not the end-all, be-all. And being a part of a team and being a really important part of a team and for a guy with that talent being on the floor at the end of the game, certainly is important. It [starting] may be something he wishes he would do, but I don’t think there’s any question he knows what we think of him. We’ll go from there.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Free agent JaVale McGee has all the physical tools to succeed, but he’s barely played in two years and it’s never been clear if he understands basketball, opines Zach Lowe of Grantland (via Twitter).  McGee was on the verge of a deal with the Celtics on Thursday before a dispute over whether the second year of a deal would be a team option or a player option derailed things.
  • Jonas Valanciunas, whom the Raptors reportedly mulled trading before the deadline, should be Toronto’s go-to scorer in the final quarter of games, opines Eric Koreen of the National Post. The franchise needs to begin transitioning toward featuring the big man more if it hopes to advance in the playoffs, Koreen adds.
  • Citing the turnaround seasons the Cavs and Hawks are experiencing, Knicks coach Derek Fisher believes his club will be different next season because it will likely have a top-5 draft pick and plenty of cap room, Ohm Youngmisuk of writes. “Teams that feel like maybe they’re one step away or one piece away, they’ll make a move in the summer,” Fisher said. “We have money to spend and we’re heading for a pretty high [draft] pick so we’re expecting to be different as well.” 

Zach Links contributed to this post

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