Isaiah Thomas

Atlantic Notes: Valanciunas, Thomas, Colangelo

It’s evident that Jonas Valanciunas is happy coming off the bench for the Raptors so long as he’s still a core component of the team’s rotation, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Prior to Toronto’s series-clinching victory over the Bucks Thursday, the 24-year-old discussed his new role.

I’m good. I don’t feel bad if I don’t start,” the Raptors big man said. “I’m playing the same minutes, doing good things on the court, that’s all I need to do, right? I’ve just got to do my job. As long as we’re winning — I’ve been saying that a long time — as long as we’re winning I’m OK.

Even though he came off the bench for Game 6, the Raptors appeared to make an effort to get the pivot involved early. Though he wasn’t featured as heavily toward the end of the contest, he was on the court serving as a potent post threat through to the final buzzer.

It’s unclear if Valanciunas will slide back into the Raptors lineup against the Cavaliers. He had started Games 1 and 2 against Milwaukee but moved to the bench when Dwane Casey employed a smaller lineup featuring Norman Powell.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets rested their players in the final game of the regular season, despite the fact that they were long eliminated from the postseason, had zero incentive to tank and were matched up against a Bulls team that needed a win to sneak into the playoffs. Anthony Puccio of Nets Daily recently wrote about the controversy the decision has stirred up.
  • Does Isaiah Thomas deserve a max contract? A panelist of NBA writers at CSN New England discussed the topic in a recently published video segment and were torn as to whether or not the Celtics could justifiably pay up.
  • Less than two weeks since the conclusion of the 2016/17 campaign, Sixers president Bryan Colangelo is already in Europe scouting players. Per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Colangelo has recently watched Milos Teodosic and Philly draft pick Furkan Korkmaz.

Thomas’ Status Uncertain After Sister’s Death

The Celtics may not know until game time if Isaiah Thomas will be available for Sunday’s playoff opener with the Bulls after the death of his sister in an auto accident today, tweets Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald.

Chyna Thomas, 22, was killed in a one-car crash early this morning on Interstate 5 in Federal Way, Washington. Isaiah Thomas was told about the tragedy after the Celtics finished practice today, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. A source close to Thomas informed ESPN that he plans to play in the Sunday evening game, but nothing is certain at this point.

Thomas’ father told Murphy that no decision has been made on when his son will fly to Washington, adding “It’s a crucial time for our family right now.” A league source said the sixth-year guard is in “a state of shock.”

Coach Brad Stevens visited Thomas tonight and the Celtics issued a statement that read, “We are terribly saddened by the tragic loss of Chyna Thomas. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Celtics organization are with Isaiah and his family.”

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, Thomas, Poeltl

Second-year big man Kristaps Porzingis knew early on that the Knicks weren’t going to be a competitive team this season, citing a lack of chemistry and teamwork. Marc Berman of the New York Post wrote about the sophomore’s troubling realization as the franchise finds itself staring at a 27-42 record.

I think it was pretty easy to tell from the inside that we’re not that good of a team,” Porzingis said of the Knicks. “We can win games based on our talent, but it’s not going to last long. [We needed] more work, attention to details, to keep growing as a team. A good team needs time to play together.”

The forward, whose averaged 18.0 points per game across 58 contests so far this season, acknowledged that the transition process can be difficult and that the Knicks did add several fresh faces like starting point guard Derrick Rose, but it was a disappointing year nonetheless.

Of course, we all expected big things out of this year, but from the beginning it didn’t feel like — I felt we’d make big runs, but we weren’t there at that level where we wanted to be,” Porzingis said. “We can see now we’re not where we want it to be.”

  • After a two-game hiatus, guard Isaiah Thomas is back in action for the Celtics, Chris Forsberg of ESPN tweets. The All-Star had been nursing a knee bruise. The 29.2 point-per-game scorer returns as the C’s sit 2.5 games back of the Cavaliers for the top seed in the East.
  • Though sparsely used for the majority of his rookie campaign, first-year big man Jakob Poeltl is earning the trust of Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. “Every time you put him in, he does something positive,” Casey said. “There’s that trust, not only with myself but with his teammates. He’s doing positive things, he plays with physicality.” Poeltl has averaged 16.8 minutes per game in his last five contests.
  • Pressed to talk about the city of Los Angeles, Carmelo Anthony told the New York Post’s Marc Berman that he thinks L.A. is a relaxing place and that his family feels comfortable there. He also said, “Nah, don’t start, I haven’t thought about it,” though, so take it for what it’s worth. “I try not to think about it,” Anthony told the reporter. “Especially now when I’m still playing with the New York Knicks.

Celtics Notes: Thomas, Yabusele, Stevens, Ball

As the Celtics look to make a push for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, they’ll have to do so this weekend without star point guard Isaiah Thomas. The C’s announced today (via Twitter) that Thomas, who is dealing with a right knee bone bruise, won’t join the club on its road trip to Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

The Celtics are scheduled to play the Nets on Friday and the Sixers on Sunday, so Thomas will miss those two games. It’s not clear if his absence will extend beyond that. Boston has a big game on tap for Monday with the Wizards, who will be looking to gain ground in the standings and win their season series with the C’s, so Thomas is likely aiming to get back on the court for that contest.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • The 16th pick of the 2016 draft, French forward Guerschon Yabusele, has signed a D-League contract and will join the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s NBADL affiliate, tweets Chris Reichert of The Step Back. As we noted on Wednesday, Yabusele has arrived in America following a season with the Shanghai Sharks, and the Celtics will get a chance to take a closer look at him in the D-League down the stretch, as long as his sprained ankle cooperates.
  • With the NCAA tournament getting underway today, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about the possibility of colleges attempting to pry him away from Boston. As Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe details, Stevens suggested that NCAA programs know better than to think he’d leave the Celtics anytime soon. “The only thing people usually call me for is to ask questions about candidates,” Stevens said. “Everybody has a pretty good idea of where I stand, and I think ultimately I’m going to be here. I think that’s pretty well known.”
  • There have been questions recently about whether Lonzo Ball‘s outspoken father, LaVar Ball, would negatively impact the UCLA guard’s draft stock among NBA teams. For his part, Celtics GM Danny Ainge said this week that he would “never hold a player’s family against a player if I like a player,” per A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. The Celtics may be in position this spring to draft a player like Ball, since they’ll have a top-four pick.
  • For more Celtics news and rumors, be sure to check out their team feed, which includes an item from earlier this week on Yabusele’s fellow 2016 first-rounder, Ante Zizic.

Atlantic Notes: Atkinson, Tucker, Thomas, Knicks

Chris Mannix of The Vertical spoke with Nets coach Kenny Atkinson about the team’s rebuild; a process Atkinson admitted can be overwhelming.

“I look at it like I deserve … like I deserve to start at the bottom. This is how it should be. I shouldn’t be handed some prime job,” Atkinson said. “I really believe that I have to pay my dues, and it’s great. It’s funny the situation we are in, without our picks, we never use that as a crutch. We never talk about the past. We’re talking about getting better in the here and now, and getting better in the future.”

Atkinson certainly has paid his dues; the Nets are currently 11-52, having won just 3 of 34 Eastern Conference games. Atkinson discussed the vision he shares with GM Sean Marks.

“Sean and I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task,” Atkinson said. “We needed guys that were going to be able to keep pushing through and guys with high character that, despite the won-loss record, they’re going to come in here with a smile on their face and keep working their tails off, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten from one to 15. We push these guys pretty hard, but everyone wants to be coached, accepts coaching. That attitude, that work ethic, that’s eventually going to pay off.”

More from the Atlantic…

  • Jackie MacMullan of ESPN discussed the Nets’ challenge of “rebuilding from nothing.” MacMullan spoke to Heat president Pat Riley, who was hesitant to criticize former GM Billy King for the infamous Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett blockbuster trade. “I’m a gambler — I might have done the same thing,” Riley said. “At the time, they were trying to build something. They had a new arena, a new owner, and so you go after the best players, and you tell everybody you are going to win. It didn’t work, and now they are paying the price.”
  • Doug Smith of The Star wrote about P.J. Tucker‘s adjustment to Toronto. Tucker, who became an immediate fixture in Dwane Casey‘s rotation, now has a thorough understanding of the team’s “schemes and nuances.” “A lot of stuff was on the fly: just people talking on the court, coaches yelling to me from the sidelines, literally the other team hearing them telling me what I’m doing,” Tucker said. “When you come into a team in the middle of the year that is doing well, you just want to kind of follow along and fall in place.”
  • Isaiah Thomas didn’t mean to throw coach Brad Stevens under the bus by saying “we can’t be experimenting in Game 63,” after a recent loss. Thomas, who met with GM Danny Ainge regarding his remarks, clarified his point of view with Chris Forsberg of ESPN“That’s not me. I just said how I felt at that time,” Thomas said. “I was frustrated, I thought we should have won. I was always taught to speak my mind. But for the most part, I don’t want to be a distraction. My teammates know that. It’s bigger than how I feel, I guess.”
  • There’s plenty of room for the Knicks to improve their draft position down the stretch, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Monday’s victory, Berman notes, dropped the Knicks from being in a tie for the sixth-worst record in the NBA to ninth-worst. Despite the team’s clear incentive to tank, coach Jeff Hornacek isn’t yet on board with throwing in the towel. “Until you’re out of it and doesn’t look good, it would come from management,’’ Hornacek said. “If we’re out of the playoffs, we’ll start doing that. There’s veteran guys here who will never give up until they’re out of it. We’re going to try to still win games.’’

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Anderson, Nader

Now a vital part of a competitive Celtics rotation, Jaylen Brown is making a case for the Rookie of the Year award, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England. The 20-year-old swingman has gradually improved over the course of his first campaign making modifications to his game along the way.

It’s hard because most rookies who get Rookie of the Year are playing for bad teams,” Brown’s teammate Isaiah Thomas told reporters recently. “They play 35 minutes a game, take any shot [they] want. Bigger picture, it’s better for him to be on a playoff team, understand how to win games and he knows what he brings to the table. He’s a big part of what we got going. He definitely wants to win Rookie of the Year, but it’s hard going up against guys not really playing for nothing.”

Blakely adds that the media will have a refreshing choice when it comes time to submit their votes for the award. Rather than just choose which rookie is the most productive when it comes to filling the stat sheet, they’ll be able to factor in Brown’s impact on his team’s success.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • More than just a “throw in” in last months Nerlens Noel trade, Justin Anderson is a piece that could stick around in Philadelphia. In a recent podcast, Devon Given and Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer discuss, among other things, Anderson’s ability to play defense on the perimeter for the Sixers.
  • The Raptors bench is starting to take shape, Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun writes, and Delon Wright has done an admirable job filling in as the backup point guard while Cory Joseph shifts into Kyle Lowry‘s starting position.
  • The trade that sent him from the Suns to the Celtics back in 2015 was “a Christmas gift”, says Isaiah Thomas. A. Sherrod Blakeley of CSN New England spoke with the point guard upon his return to Phoenix. Thomas performed well with the Suns but wasn’t even close to the MVP discussion that he now finds himself in with Boston.
  • Despite being recently released by the Sixers, Knicks guard Chasson Randle understands that Philadelphia’s decision to let him go was based on numbers, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Randle was released so that Philly could take on Andrew Bogut and Justin Anderson in the Nerlens Noel trade.
  • When Knicks guard Lance Thomas sat for 14 games nursing a fractured orbital bone, it allowed a lingering foot injury to heal, Fred Kerber of the New York Post writes. “Indirectly, this fracture in my face has been a blessing to help give me time to get my feet back under me,” Thomas said.
  • Second-round draft pick Abdel Nader could land a spot with the Celtics next season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe speculates. Nader has flourished in the D-League and is being touted as the third best prospect in the league.

Celtics Notes: Drummond, George, Bradley

The Celtics would be a potential landing spot for Andre Drummond if the Pistons are open to moving their young center, a source tells A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England. Blakely wonders if Boston, having shown little interest in DeMarcus Cousins before he was dealt, could instead be eyeing a big man like Drummond.

While we’ve known for some time that the Pistons are open to dealing anybody on the roster at the right price, Drummond’s recent behavior on Twitter, Blakely argues, could indicate that something is brewing. Earlier today, Drummond retweeted an eyeball emoji tweet that Isaiah Thomas sent out. Worth noting, Blakely writes, is that the point guard did exactly such a thing shortly before the Celtics added Al Horford in the summer. Later, Drummond posted his own eyeball emoji tweet and removed all references to the Pistons from his Twitter biography.

Tempering expectations on the Drummond speculation is Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, who says that multiple people with firsthand knowledge of the Pistons claim it’s very likely the 23-year-old stays in Detroit through the deadline.

There are a few more Celtics rumors bouncing around today:

  • The Celtics may be unlikely to move one of their Nets picks for Jimmy Butler but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t include it in a deal for Pacers swingman Paul George. A CSN New England report filed Tuesday cites an article published by Frank Isola at the New York Daily News. “Everyone is talking about Butler to Boston but Danny Ainge and Larry Bird go way back. Paul George could be the sleeper,” said Isola’s source, an anonymous executive.
  • One player that could make an interesting pieces at the trade deadline is Avery Bradley, says a recent CSN New England report. In a podcast, Zach Lowe of ESPN mentioned that Bradley will see his contract expire next season at the same time that Isaiah Thomas’ contract comes due and for that reason might be moved ahead of time.
  • A report out of Toronto links the Celtics to both Jimmy Butler and Paul George but adds that the Celtics will likely hold onto their potential top pick. Ryan Wolstat of the National Post thinks Boston can offer an enticing package for Butler without including the pick.

Blazers Duo, Embiid Fail To Make All-Star Cut

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, the Blazers backcourt duo Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and Jazz center Rudy Gobert were among the prominent players who failed to make the cut on the Western Conference All-Star reserve unit, which was unveiled on Thursday and relayed on the NBA’s Twitter feed. Joel Embiid, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were some of the notable names who didn’t make the cut on the Eastern Conference squad. (Twitter links).

Russell Westbrook,  Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and Gordon Hayward received the most votes by the conference’s coaches, who pick the reserves. Westbrook, of course, was the biggest snub among the All-Star starters as the fan voting, which counted for 50% toward the overall balloting, put him behind Stephen Curry and James Harden.

Paul George, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker and John Wall were named the Eastern Conference’s All-Star reserves.

Did the coaches get it right or was there an obvious mistake on their part? Go to the comments section and weigh in.

Atlantic Notes: Butler, Wright, Thomas

Lost in the headlines coming out of Atlanta are rumors that the Bulls may look to shop Jimmy Butler. Such an idea isn’t particularly new – the All-Star was said to be on the block during the 2016 NBA Draft – but the impact of such a deal would be significant. Two Atlantic Division teams, the Celtics and Sixers, have been linked to the Bulls swingman and may or may not be in the mix of clubs looking to attain him.

While Keith Pompey of The Inquirer thinks that Butler would be a good fit with the Sixers alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, A. Sherrod Blakely of Comcast SportsNet speculates that the Celtics may not have enough to get a deal done. The C’s have been said to be seeking a star, but Blakely suggests that Chicago will be looking for a “major haul” that Boston wouldn’t be able to meet.

Over the course of the next few weeks, teams will continue to inquire about the Bulls All-Star as he averages 25.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Butler is owed $17.6MM this season and is signed through 2020.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Out of action since Summer League, Delon Wright is creeping ever closer to making his return to action for the Raptors. Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News writes that the sophomore guard will begin playing 3-on-3 next week for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery. Sorensen writes that Wright may not see action until “possibly next month.”
  • The Raptors and Celtics already had a tough road ahead of them in the Eastern Conference, but Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver writes that the recent acquisition of Kyle Korver could spur them to be bolder as the trade deadline approaches.
  • We wrote about Isaiah Thomas‘ emergence as a star earlier this week, but Comcast SportsNet has recently put together five reasons why the point guard should be considered a max contract player. The Celtics could soon renegotiate the contract that he first signed with the Suns in 2014.
  • The D-League affiliate of the Nets has acquired the rights to recently waived R.J. Hunter, the team writes in a press release. Hunter had previously played for the Bulls, though only saw action in three games this season.

Celtics Already Have Star In Isaiah Thomas

When Danny Ainge traded Marcus Thornton and a draft pick to the Suns for Isaiah Thomas, few regarded it as a franchise-altering deal. Fast forward to 2017, however, and the 5’9″ scoring point guard has made a name for himself as both the Celtics’ most dependable option and perhaps the team-leading star they’re so often said to be seeking.

Even with the addition of Al Horford, who signed a max contract to play in Boston last summer, Thomas has stepped up and carried the team on a regular basis. According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, he’s the biggest source of star power in Beantown since the end of the Big Three era.

Perhaps most interesting about Thomas’ ascent as an All-Star in Boston, however, is his abnormally cheap contract — especially considering the raises that have been doled out in the years since the point guard signed his deal with Phoenix in 2014.

As Washburn explains, Thomas’ contract comes in the form of an extremely team-friendly $6.6M salary, with that value even dropping slightly in 2017/18. He’ll be eligible to sign a contract extension this summer, but a straight extension would only allow for a 20% pay increase, a pittance of what he’d be worth on the open market. If Boston has cap room available, the team could renegotiate the deal, giving Thomas a larger raise.

It may not be in Thomas’s best interest to sign an extension now,” Washburn adds, “but it’s worth it for the Celtics to begin talks, and it would give Thomas the impression that the organization believes in him long term“.

Worth noting is that Ainge has long been a fan of Thomas’, even before the 2015 trade through which he acquired him. As Thomas told Josue Pavon of WEEI 93.7FM, Ainge was the first executive to come calling during the 2014 free agency period.

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