Isaiah Thomas

Northwest Notes: Thomas, Korver, Blazers, Harris

Despite coping with injuries and struggling to gain playing time in the past 18 months, Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas is confident the process will turn around for the better, Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated writes. Thomas, 30, will become an unrestricted free agent in July.

“I’m blessed. I know it’s going to turn at one point,” Thomas told The Undefeated. “I worked too hard for it not to. It’s always been like that in my career. I’ve seen this story before. I’ve seen this page, I’ve seen this chapter, and I know what’s gonna happen in the end. I’m going to take it back to the top, and then people are going to all show that fake love again. That’s all it is.

“It’s just a bump in the road that I hit, and like I’ve said about Nipsey [Hussle], it’s a marathon. You just got to keep running, keep running the race and keep working hard.”

Thomas played just 12 games with the Nuggets this season and 32 total games the season before with Cleveland and Los Angeles, working to get back to full strength after undergoing a major hip surgery last March.

It was just two years ago that he was leading the Celtics to a deep postseason run, cementing himself as one of the top point guards in the league. For Thomas, he hopes to be able to play basketball for several more seasons and extend his career until he turns 40.

“Oh, hell no,” Thomas said when asked if he considered retiring last year. “I’m playing until I’m 40. … I want to play until I can’t no more. For sure.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Jazz guard Kyle Korver is dealing with some concerning knee pain ahead of Sunday’s Game 1 against the Rockets, tweets Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Korver, who’s listed as available to play, appeared to cut short a normal shooting workout on Saturday due to the pain. Korver shot 38% from behind-the-arc in 54 games this season with Utah, averaging 20.1 minutes per contest off the bench.
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian labels five storylines to watch in the Trail Blazers-Thunder series, including how Portland’s new starting five operates. The Blazers appear poised to start Enes Kanter in place of the injured Jusuf Nurkic for the rest of the postseason, with Kanter tallying 20 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks in a Game 1 victory against the Thunder on Sunday.
  • Gary Harris could be the “X-Factor” for the Nuggets in their first-round series against the Spurs, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post writes. Harris, a prominent offensive option in Denver’s rotation, finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting in a Game 1 loss to San Antonio on Saturday. The Nuggets need his production to take back homecourt advantage from the Spurs, a talented team led by the likes of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Northwest Division:

Isaiah Thomas, Nuggets, 30, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2018
The sad and swift decline in Thomas’ career hit a new low a couple of weeks ago when the veteran was informed by Nuggets coach Michael Malone he would not be in the rotation going forward. Thomas didn’t even make his season debut until mid-February due to his hip condition. He has only seen action in one game since March 8 — a scoreless seven-minute stint in Boston, where his career peaked two seasons ago when he averaged 28.9 PPG. Thomas will probably have to settle for another one year, “show me” contract this summer.

Tyus Jones, Timberwolves, 22, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $6.54MM deal in 2015
Jones has received steady playing time since late February and is now the starter by default with Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose out for the rest of the season. He isn’t much of a scoring threat but he rarely turns the ball over. He’s averaging less than one turnover per game in 25.8 MPG this month. Teague has a $19MM option on his contract for next season and is expected to exercise it, so Jones’ starting gig probably won’t last. The Timberwolves can make Jones a restricted free agent by extending a qualifying offer of $3.57MM and that seems likely, given his age and steady hand at the point.

Markieff Morris, Thunder, 29, SF/PF (Down) — Signed to a one-year, $573K deal in 2019
The above salary figure doesn’t reflect that Morris was making $8.6MM before he was traded by the Wizards to the Pelicans, who waived him. He seemed to be walking into a good situation with a playoff-bound team but hasn’t made much of an impact. He’s averaging 6.0 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 15.9 MPG in 17 appearances with Oklahoma City. He played just seven scoreless minutes against Indiana on Wednesday. Morris brings enough to the table to be a rotation piece but it’s increasing unlikely he’ll get a starter-level offer on the open market.

Enes Kanter, Trail Blazers, 26, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $653K deal in 2019
Jusuf Nurkic‘s gruesome leg injury changes the outlook for Kanter in the short- and long-term. He’ll suddenly be playing heavy minutes for Portland, which signed him as a backup after the Knicks reached a buyout agreement with him on his $18.6MM salary this season. A productive postseason by Kanter should enhance his prospects as an unrestricted free agent. He’s not going to make anyone’s All-Defense team but he’s a double-double machine when he plays half the game. While it seems Kanter has been around for awhile, he’s still only 26 and in the prime of his career.

Derrick Favors, Jazz, 27, PF (Up)– Signed to a two-year, $37.6MM deal in 2018
Favors’ $16.9MM contract for next season isn’t guaranteed unless he’s on the roster through July 6. That seemed unlikely from the time he signed the deal but it’s not a given the Jazz will let him go. That salary isn’t outrageous for a starter and the Jazz have plenty of cap room to absorb that salary. Plus, they’d need to have a solid plan to replace Favors, who has posted a 21.9 PER this season. Favors nearly got dealt to Memphis for Mike Conley and Utah could use his expiring contract in a blockbuster trade next season if it retains him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Isaiah Thomas: “I Just Want A Legit Opportunity”

Isaiah Thomas made an emotional return to the TD Garden on Monday, a place where he helped carry an up-and-coming Celtics team to the Eastern Conference Finals.

“There were times after I got traded where I sat back and really thought about things that I did as an individual, the things that we had done as a team, and those were amazing moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Thomas said via Tim Bontempts of ESPN.com.

Boston dealt Thomas away months after that pinnacle, and after stops in Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Denver, he hasn’t been able to find his next major role.

“I just want a legit opportunity,” Thomas said. “Whatever the role may be, it’s going to be. But I know I can play at a high level again. And if given the opportunity, I can be an All-Star, I can be All-NBA, I can be all that, because I physically feel great.”

Thomas underwent hip surgery in 2017 and his recovery has taken some time. He missed the first half of this season and he hasn’t shown the same burst on the court in 10 games with the Nuggets that he had in his peak-Boston days. Still, he’s confident that he’ll be able to thrive if given the chance to have a bigger role

“If I get an opportunity, I’m going to be ready for it,” he said. “I’m going to take full advantage of it. And when this summer comes, I’m going to just figure out what’s the best opportunity, what’s the best situation for myself and my family, and then go from there.”

Thomas has played fewer than 20 minutes in all but one appearance for the Nuggets this season. He’s no longer in the regular rotation and – barring an injury – he’s not expected to be reinserted prior to the team’s first playoff appearance since 2013.

The former All-Star is on a one-year deal that pays him slightly over $2MM. Thomas, who at one point in 2017 was expected to seek a maximum-salary deal, will be a free agent again this summer.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Celtics, Horford, Knicks

Fred VanVleet returned to the Raptors‘ lineup at the right time, suiting up for the team on Sunday for the first time since injuring his thumb before the All-Star break. As Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca details, Toronto threw VanVleet into the deep end in his return, playing him for 31 minutes in a tightly-contested loss to Detroit, and the club was at its best when he was on the floor.

VanVleet won’t be relied upon to play quite as significant a role once Kyle Lowry is ready to return from his ankle injury, but Jeremy Lin‘s struggles since joining the Raptors last month have highlighted VanVleet’s importance, Grange notes.

In 15 games since he arrived, the Raptors have a -5.9 net rating when Lin plays and a +12.9 rating when he sits. With VanVleet back in the rotation and Lowry nearing a return, Lin’s role is in danger of being cut back significantly as the postseason approaches.

Here’ more from around the Atlantic:

  • Although he only played for the Celtics for three seasons, it felt like 15 based on the love he was shown by fans in Boston, Isaiah Thomas tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Suggesting that he’ll always consider Boston home, the veteran guard said he wouldn’t close the door on returning to the Celtics at some point. “You never know,” Thomas said. “You can’t predict the future. My options are always open for anybody. I’m a Denver Nugget now, but I’m a free agent at the end of the season, and you never know what can happen. Who knows?”
  • Over the weekend, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters, including Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link), that the club plans to sit Al Horford for three or four games down the stretch. Horford’s impact has been a little inconsistent this year, which is due in part to nagging injuries, so the C’s want to make sure he’s ready for the postseason.
  • Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been frequently linked to the Knicks this season, while they’ve had contentious exchanges with the media nearly just as frequently. In a column for Newsday, Steve Popper wonders how Durant, Irving, or any other star who signs with the Knicks this summer would handle the pressure and expectations that would face them in New York.

Celtics Notes: Rozier, Thomas, Horford, T. Robinson

Celtics guard Terry Rozier has formed a strong bond with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge even though he has been on the trading block this year, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Rozier shined while Kyrie Irving was sidelined with an injury during last year’s playoffs, but has struggled to fit into a backup role this season. With restricted free agency looming this summer, Rozier seemed like a natural candidate for a deal.

“I know he had some thoughts about trading me this year,” Rozier said. “I respected the business side of it. I don’t ever try to get too much in other people’s jobs. I try to do my job, which is on the court. Like I said, I know he had thoughts, but it didn’t happen.”

Ainge has been a believer in Rozier since drafting him with the 16th pick in 2015 when he was projected as a late first-rounder at best. He resisted trading Rozier because of his potential value in the playoffs, but there’s still no guarantee that the fourth-year guard will remain in Boston beyond this season.

There’s more Celtics news to pass along:

  • Isaiah Thomas can expect a warm reception when he returns to Boston tomorrow night, both from fans and former teammates, relays Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports. Thomas, who has fallen out of the Nuggets’ rotation, may finally get a tribute video. He was injured in his only other trip to the city since being traded and requested that the Celtics not produce a video then. “One of the reasons I came here (to Boston) was to play with him, and one of the things I always admire about Isaiah is his heart,” Al Horford said. “Just leaving it all out there. It didn’t matter if he was hurt or there was something wrong. He’s a guy that loves to compete, that plays hard, that plays to win, and it was just a lot of fun to play with him.”
  • An injury scare for Horford during yesterday’s win over the Hawks showed why the Celtics want to give him some rest before the playoffs, notes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Horford left the game after banging knees with an Atlanta player in the third quarter. He was able to return, but Boston plans to give him three or four games off to ensure his health for the postseason.
  • The Celtics’ G League affiliate in Maine has officially added former NBA forward Thomas Robinson, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who suggests that Robinson might be considered for Boston’s open roster spot. The Red Claws play four more games before their season ends Saturday.

Isaiah Thomas Out Of Nuggets’ Rotation

Isaiah Thomas‘ comeback has hit another dead end, writes Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. The former All-Star will have his playing time sharply reduced as coach Michael Malone trims the Nuggets‘ rotation for the rest of the season.

Thomas has appeared in just nine games since returning last month after his latest hip surgery. He is averaging 8.6 PPG, but is shooting just 37.3% from the field and 27.3% from 3-point range.

Malone broke the news to Thomas before Tuesday’s game.

“You definitely talk to him, and I will keep that conversation between myself and IT,” Malone said. “Not an easy conversation, but that’s my job. It’s never about Isaiah or any individual. It’s about what’s best for our team. I made the decision to shorten the rotation, only play eight guys in the first quarter, and I’m going to continue to do that for the time being. Sixteen games to go, I’m trying to find a rhythm and a rotation that I feel like will give us the best chance to win now and into the playoffs.”

Thomas will be a free agent again this summer after signing a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with Denver last summer. The Nuggets knew he wouldn’t be available right away because of the surgery, but hoped he could develop into a backup point guard in time for the postseason. However, Monte Morris seized that slot while Thomas was sidelined, leaving the veteran guard with an uncertain future once again.

Thomas appeared on the verge of a max contract after a pair of All-Star seasons with the Celtics, but he was sent to Cleveland in the Kyrie Irving trade in 2017 and has never been able to overcome a lingering problem with his hip. Thomas, who turned 30 last month, has now had brief, unsuccessful stays with the Cavaliers, Lakers and Nuggets, playing a total of 41 games since leaving Boston.

Western Notes: Lacob, Exum, Thomas, George

Warriors owner Joe Lacob is unfazed by the spotty play of his team, which he expressed to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. Golden State has gone 4-6 in its last 10 games, including a home loss to the last-place Suns on Sunday. “We have the best team in the world. Why wouldn’t I be confident?” Lacob said. “I think we have a great team, great talent. In the NBA, talent usually wins. … Guys usually figure it out. We have an intelligent group. As long as we stay healthy. That’s the caveat. But I’m confident and believe in our team.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Jazz backup point guard Dante Exum returned to action on Monday after missing the previous 25 games due to a sprained ankle and bone bruise. Coach Quin Snyder is confident Exum can reestablish himself as a rotation piece, a feeling he relayed to Aaron Falk of the team’s website and other media members. “We realize he hasn’t played in two months, but it will be good to have him back out there and start to work through some of the rust,” Snyder said. “The longer you’re out, the more difficult it is to pick up where you left off. But there’s no reason he won’t get back to that.”
  • Nuggets point guard Isaiah Thomas has Monday, March 18 circled on his calendar, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. He will play against Boston for the first time since he was traded to Cleveland prior to last season. “I can’t wait,” Thomas said. “That’s going to be a special moment for me. Even if they don’t do a video or whatever, just being back in that city and that arena is going to be unbelievable. I had the best basketball moments of my career in that arena. Boston’s always going to be in my heart, no matter what.”
  • Thunder forward Paul George was fined $25K by the league over the weekend, according to an ESPN report. He criticized the officiating after the Thunder’s 118-110 loss to the Clippers on Friday. “It’s just bad officiating,” George said after the game. “I’m sorry, just bad officiating. We don’t get a fair whistle. We haven’t gotten a fair whistle all year.”

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Morris, Thomas, Layman

Scotty Hopson and Richard Solomon are both back on the free agent market after their 10-day contracts with the Thunder expired, according to the Real GM transactions page. Oklahoma City signed both players shortly before the All-Star break to reach the NBA’s roster limit. The team is back down to 13 players and will have two weeks to fill at least one opening.

Neither player saw any court time in OKC. Solomon has yet to appear in an NBA game, while Hopson played two games with the Cavaliers during the 2013/14 season and one with the Mavericks last year.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Markieff Morris has found a perfect opportunity with the Thunder, his twin brother said in a comment tweeted by Jay King of The Athletic. Markieff signed with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with the Pelicans, who acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. “I think that’s a great fit for him,” Marcus Morris said. “… I don’t think they have a guy like him over there. … I think he could be that piece that helps them battle it out with Golden State.”
  • Isaiah Thomas‘ return to action adds one more player to an already deep Nuggets backcourt and could present Michael Malone with his greatest coaching challenge of the season, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. In two games since returning from his latest hip surgery, Thomas has scored 24 points in 29 minutes and could be a valuable weapon off the bench for the rest of the season. Malone, who already had five guards that were getting regular playing time, unveiled a three-guard lineup Friday that had Thomas, Monte Morris and Gary Harris on the court together. “If we have to adjust, we will,” Malone said, “but playing small, you got three playmakers out there that can all generate shots for their teammates and get their own shot in Monte, in Isaiah, in Gary Harris. That’s a pretty good bench unit, if you ask me.”
  • Jake Layman has become a “secret weapon” for the Trail Blazers, notes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. A second-round pick in 2016, Layman saw little action during his first two NBA seasons, but has made a breakthrough this year through a combination of shooting and athleticism.

Northwest Notes: Hood, I. Thomas, OKC, Jazz

Rodney Hood had the ability to veto a trade this season, but was entirely on board with the deal that sent him from Cleveland to Portland, as he tells Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. While Hood didn’t go so far as to say he got to “pick” his new team, he admitted that the veto ability gave him the power to maneuver his way to a club he wanted to join — like the Trail Blazers.

“When I heard Portland, I looked at the situation and the opportunity to play minutes in an offense and system that, I think, really fits my style of play,” Hood said of his move to the Trail Blazers. “I also think with their community and their fan base, my personality will really fit in as well. I think it was a no-brainer to me to come out here and be part of what they have going on.”

Here’s more from out of the Northwest:

  • Isaiah Thomas made his Nuggets debut, appearing in an NBA game for the first time since last March. Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com has a Q&A with Thomas about his long road back from hip surgery, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic relays the point guard’s impressions of his return, and Harrison Wind of BSNDenver.com examines how Thomas impacted the team even when he wasn’t playing.
  • The Thunder, who dipped to 12 players this month, are back up to 14 after signing Scotty Hopson and Richard Solomon to 10-day contracts, but they may just be short-term options. Erik Horne of The Oklahoman explores other ways in which the Thunder could use their open roster spots down the stretch.
  • Prior to the trade deadline, when the Jazz were said to have interest in Mike Conley, one report indicated that the veteran point guard wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of heading to Utah. Conley denied the rumor, and Jazz owner Gayle Miller later suggested that she’s unconcerned about the idea that players might not want to come to Salt Lake City. “I think Utah is a great place to live,” Miller said, per Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. “It’s beautiful and I wish more people had a better perception of it, but I don’t feel it’s my mission to change that. I think we do that some with our basketball team by having great players, players of good character who conduct themselves well and I think they all like it here.”

Isaiah Thomas Set To Make Nuggets Debut

FEBRUARY 13: Thomas will return to the court and make his Nuggets debut on Wednesday, Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter).

FEBRUARY 12: Isaiah Thomas could make his debut for the Nuggets as soon as Wednesday against Kings, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports.

Thomas, who signed a one-year deal with Denver during the offseason, underwent a hip procedure last year and was only able to suit up for a total of 17 games last season.

The point guard participated in five-on-five drills today and a decision on his status for the Kings’ game is expected to be determined early on Wednesday.

Denver sits just 2.5 games behind the Warriors for the lead in the Western Conference. It’s unclear what kind of role Thomas is expected to play for the remainder of the season, but the club has enough depth in the backcourt to bring him along slowly.