Isaiah Thomas

Charania’s Latest: Beasley, Rockets, Hawks, OKC, IT

Multiple teams have had “due diligence” conversations with the Nuggets about guard Malik Beasley, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. Beasley, who will be a restricted free agent in 2020, had extension talks with Denver earlier this year, but the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement.

As Charania explains, the Nuggets often receive trade inquiries on their wings, given their depth at that spot, but haven’t gained any traction on potential deals. Beasley had a breakout season in 2018/19, but has been in and out of Denver’s rotation so far this season. If the team isn’t confident about its chances of locking him up next summer, he could become a trade candidate as the season progresses.

Here’s more from Charania:

  • The Rockets, who are likely to target wings on the trade market, are open to surrendering future assets for immediate help, according to Charania.
  • There has been frustration within the Hawks‘ organization about the team’s struggles this season, with Trae Young having reportedly expressed those frustrations in an “emotional” locker room scene recently, per Charania. Multiple sources tell The Athletic that a high-ranking Hawks official was recently seen telling Young that the club would be getting him some help on the roster soon.
  • Rival teams have been surprised by the Thunder‘s apparent willingness to absorb salary and longer-term contracts in potential trades, says Charania. Oklahoma City is slightly above the luxury tax line, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the club looks to reduce its team salary a little, but it seems OKC is willing to accommodate salary dumps too. That could mean, for instance, taking back a bad multiyear deal or two in exchange for an expiring contract like Danilo Gallinari‘s.
  • Wizards point guard Isaiah Thomas is expected to miss at least another week due to his calf injury, sources tell Charania.
  • While many players will become trade-eligible next Sunday (December 15), the trade market is expected to take some time to develop, according to Charania. “There are still too many teams that think they have a playoff chance,” one team executive told The Athletic, “before the true buyers and sellers emerge.”

Wizards Notes: Chemistry, Wagner, Thomas

The atmosphere in Washington is much more upbeat than it was last season, as Troy Haliburton and I recently discussed on the Wizards’ Locked On podcast. Team chemistry is something that’s hard to measure (I’m no body language doctor as Bill Simmons would say), though this year’s edition of the Wizards are noticeably having fun playing basketball and they are outperforming their low expectations that many gave them entering the season.

The Wizards are second in the league on offense entering the night and while the team only has five wins on the season (5-9), many of the losses have been close with three of those by four points or less and a total of six losses by eight points or less.

As the team begins its four-game road trip, let’s take a look at more notes from Washington:

  • Former University of Florida star Chris Chiozza is with the Wizards on the first leg of their road trip, the team announces. Chiozza is on a two-way deal with Washington.
  • Moritz Wagner, who is helping the Wizards own one of the better bench units in the NBA, recently admitted to Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance that he has a ways to go on the defensive end. “I’m still learning too. It’s my second year and my first opportunity to actually play,” said Wagner, who came to the Wizards in the Anthony Davis three-way trade this offseason.
  • Coach Scott Brooks left Isaiah Thomas and Ish Smith on the floor together in the Wizards’ recent contest against the Kings and Thomas feels the two point guards (both of whom came to the franchise this past offseason) can play together in the future. “I’ve played off the ball in my career a lot, it’s not that different,” Thomas told Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance after Sunday’s game. “It’s a different dynamic. I like playing off the ball, switching it up…Ish is a hell of a guard who changes the pace of the game and definitely finds everybody that is open. Hopefully, we can make that lineup happen a little more because I think it’s dynamic if we get used to playing together.”
  • Thomas offered advice for 2018 No. 15 overall pick Troy Brown Jr., who has struggled with his shot recently. “Continue to work, it’s 82 games. You’re going to have good ones, bad ones, going to have a lot of them,” the veteran said. “You’ve got to continue, no matter how good your games are. I always say the best players have the shortest memories, whether good or bad.”

Wizards Notes: Brown, Offense, Thomas, Brooks

Troy Brown Jr. is still trying to discover what he can do well at the NBA level, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The 15th pick in last year’s draft spent much of his rookie season in the G League and only played 52 NBA games. His progress this year was delayed by a calf injury that forced him to miss all of training camp and the preseason. He has been part of the starting lineup since returning, but is averaging just 6.5 PPG on one of the league’s highest-scoring teams.

The Wizards picked up Brown’s third-year option in September and have shown a willingness to be patient with the 20-year-old. He has been taking on the toughest defensive challenges and has displayed good rebounding instincts for such a young player.

“It’s still early for him,” Bradley Beal said. “He’s all right. He’s just gotta find his rhythm. We threw him into the starting lineup right when he came back. We’ve just gotta keep making him comfortable and keep him continuing to be aggressive to instill that confidence.”

There’s more from Washington, D.C.:

  • Rob Mahoney of The Ringer examines how the Wizards have been able to assemble the NBA’s second-best offense without adding another star to play alongside Beal. Davis BertansRui Hachimura, Ish Smith and Moritz Wagner are all thriving as Washington freely moves the ball without the presence of a dominant guard like John Wall. Hughes notes that the Wizards lead the league with 28.8 assists per game, and that no team has averaged 28 assists for an entire season since 1992/93 except the Warriors of the past three years (Twitter link).
  • Terry Rozier tells Hughes in a separate story that he’s thrilled to see former teammate Isaiah Thomas revive his career in Washington after two injury-plagued seasons. “I’m just happy for him, just to get that joy back of playing ball,” Rozier said. “Whether he ever gets back to where he was at or not, I’m sure he’s just happy to be out there and playing. It’s just a guy that I look to as a big brother that taught me a lot in my first two years.”
  • Coach Scott Brooks has made it clear to the team’s younger players that minutes have to be earned, relays Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Players can find themselves on the bench quickly if they don’t follow instructions and give a consistent effort while they’re in the game. “You can only play nine or 10 guys, and you can only play five guys at time, and I understand that. It’s hard,” Brooks said. “You got to be strong and have convictions and reasons and the things that are important to you. We have some areas we know we have to develop and get better. My job is to teach.”

Southeast Notes: Spoelstra, Magic, Thomas, McRae

The NBA implemented a new coach’s challenge for the 2019/20 season, an addition that’s received mixed reviews among the league’s players, coaches and fans just one month into the campaign.

The feature is simple: To initiate the one-time, challenge, a head coach must call timeout and pursue review of a foul, out-of-bounds, goaltending or offensive interference call. While reviewing the play, the referees must see clear and conclusive visual evidence in order to overturn the ruling.

However, not all of the league’s 30 head coaches enjoy the new addition to the game.

“I don’t like it,” longtime Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the challenge, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “I’m an NBA basketball coach. I’m not an official, and I’m not trying to be an official.

“There are too many things to focus on. It doesn’t work like the NFL one. And I’m not bashing it to say I won’t be a part of it. We’ve challenged and won one. I’ll use it, but it’s distracting.”

Despite giving teams the option to challenge a potentially incorrect call, the addition of the coach’s challenge presents one clear problem: Slowing down a game that’s already been slowed enough by officiating in recent seasons, particularly toward the end of contests.

“I don’t know how that helps the flow,” Spoelstra said. “To me, it hurts the flow. It’s just another thing to focus on that’s distracting that has nothing to do with the game.

“For example, we had a game in Miami the other night and there was a bang-bang play, and it could have been called or not. I didn’t have a timeout to burn in that instance; I didn’t want to, like, gamble. And I see two fans going like this [motioning with a twirling finger]. That’s where we’re going? It’s like, I don’t know.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Josh Robbins of The Athletic provides injury updates on Magic players Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams. Gordon has a combination of a right ankle contusion and right ankle sprain, Robbins notes, though his injury is improving and he’s receiving around-the-clock treatment. Vucevic is also rehabbing from an ankle injury, though the 29-year-old is no longer in a walking boot. Carter-Williams did some stationary bike work on Saturday to continue rehab on a left hip injury.
  • Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas is confident that he’ll return to his old All-Star form, as relayed by Kevin Brown of NBC Sports Washington. “A lot of people have counted me out, especially the last couple of years,” Thomas said. “But I know what I’ve been through, I know what my body’s been through. I know how good I feel I know I’m ready and I know given the opportunity, I can play at an All-Star level again. And that’s what I’m gonna showcase…I promise you I’m gonna be an All-Star, I’m gonna be an All-NBA basketball player again.”
  • Jordan McRae is finally having his special moment with the Wizards, Fred Katz of The Athletic details. McRae missed the entire 2017/18 season due to a shoulder injury and is coming off an up-and-down campaign with Washington, but he’s starting to solidify his role on the team this year. “There’s not a better feeling in the world — unless you sign a max contract. That might be a little bit better,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s a great opportunity for Jordan. … But he still can’t relax. They always say the easiest thing is to make it. The hardest thing is to keep it. And he’s doing everything we ask. It’s good to have him back.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southeast 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 take a look at players from the Southeast Division:

Devonte’ Graham, Hornets, 24, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2018
The Hornets have until July 7th to decide whether to guarantee Graham’s $1,663,861 for next season. Safe to say, that decision has already been made. In terms of salary vs. production, Graham might be the biggest bargain in the league this season. Making just over $1.4MM, Graham leads the team in scoring at 18.0 PPG and 7.3 APG while coming off the bench in all but one game. The Kansas product appeared in 46 games last season, averaging 4.7 PPG in 14.7 MPG. With Kemba Walker bolting to Boston, Graham has blossomed in an expanded role.

Goran Dragic, Heat, 33, PG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2015
Dragic played in just 36 games last season due to right knee surgery. Dragic, now 33, has been a starter most of his career and had to adjust to a second-unit role this season. Thus far, he’s been healthy and productive. He’s averaging 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG in 28.4 MPG while making just 1.8 TPG. Dragic’s $19.2MM expiring contract is a tradeable asset if the Heat decide to shed salary. For now, Dragic is a valuable part of an improved team that should make the playoffs out of arguably the weakest division in the NBA.

Evan Fournier, Magic, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2016
Following a couple of sluggish outings against Oklahoma City and Dallas in which he shot 3-for-12 from the field, Fournier has put together a nice three-game stretch. He’s averaged 18.0 PPG and 5.0 APG during that span while knocking down nine 3-pointers and committing just four turnovers. Orlando won two of those games. The team’s second-leading scorer has a $17.15MM option on his contract for next season. In a very weak free agent market, Fournier has plenty of incentive to decline that option in order to secure another long-term deal.

Evan Turner, Hawks, 31, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2016
A rotation piece for a playoff team in recent seasons, Turner was swapped by the Trail Blazers for Kent Bazemore during the offseason. Turner was expected to provide veteran stability to a mostly inexperienced unit in Atlanta. But he only averaged 11.3 MPG during the Hawks’ first three games before being sidelined by Achilles soreness. It’s uncertain how much time Turner will require to recover from the injury. In the meantime, Atlanta has plenty of other options at the wing positions and the return of Allen Crabbe further clouds Turner’s role whenever he’s healthy enough to play.

Isaiah Thomas, Wizards, 30, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Thomas’ latest attempt to revive his career seems to be working out. Since returning from a training camp injury, Thomas has jumped into the rotation and seen his playing time steadily increase. He’s averaging 13.9 PPG and 6.3 APG while shooting 38.5 percent from long range in 24.1 MPG. Following a lost season in Denver, Thomas has at least reestablished himself as a rotation player. That’s a heartwarming development for a popular player who was an MVP candidate just a few seasons ago in Boston.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Community Shootaround: Is Isaiah Thomas “Back”?

As a short person, this author has enjoyed observing Isaiah Thomas‘s resurgence on the Wizards. Seeing IT survive and thrive in the NBA gives all of us undersized ballers hope. Thomas has been serviceable as a starter on one of the worst teams in the NBA. Can it last? And will he be able to collect some scratch for his efforts in the coming offseason?

After being drafted by the Kings with the 60th pick in 2011, Thomas put up impressive numbers for several bottom-feeding Sacramento teams. Thomas next inked a four-year, $27MM contract with the Suns in a 2014 sign-and-trade. The Suns, in the great point guard trade deadline bonanza of 2015, shipped Thomas to the Celtics. By his second full season in Boston, the 5’9″ point guard was the leader of the East’s 53-win No. 1 seed. He averaged 28.9 points, 5.9 assists and 2.7 boards. Then it all came crumbling down when a nagging hip injury knocked Thomas out of the playoffs. Boston GM Danny Ainge traded Thomas to the Cavaliers in a package for Kyrie Irving, and Thomas has never been the same.

Last season, Thomas disappointed on the 54-win Nuggets. He played just 12 games before coach Mike Malone excised him from the rotation, averaging 8.1 points per night at a paltry 34.3% field goal clip. He also shot just 27.9% from long range on 3.6 attempts. Even in those 12 games, Thomas was always a bench player, averaging only 15.1 minutes per contest.

This season, on a Wizards squad without John Wall for most or all of the season, Thomas has managed to scrap his way back into the starting five. As of this writing, he is averaging 13.2 points per game and 6.2 assists in just 22.7 minutes per contest. Thomas is also shooting a decent 42.9% from the floor and 36.4% from three-point range on 5.5 attempts per game.

So now we open this question up to the Hoops Rumors community. Is Isaiah truly “back?” First, it’s imperative to define what we mean by “back.” Thomas may never scale the heights of being an All-Star, let alone a legitimate MVP candidate. He finished fifth in 2017 MVP voting. But Thomas hasn’t even been able to sniff steady minutes on an NBA roster since the 2017/18 season, where he bounced between the Cavaliers and the Lakers.

After two straight years on veteran’s minimum contracts, will Thomas stay healthy long enough to parlay his play this season into a multi-year deal in 2020? That’s how I would quantify him being “back.” I think the answer to that question, by the way, is “Yes.” If Derrick Rose can extract a $15MM, two-year deal from the Pistons in 2019, Thomas should do something similar in 2020.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Wizards Notes: Thomas, Wall, Hachimura

Isaiah Thomas is ready to return to Boston as an opposing starter for the first time since the club traded him away.“They’re gonna cheer. They’re definitely not gonna boo,” Thomas said (via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports). “I love them just as much as they do.”

Thomas, who has started the past three games for the Wizards, earned All-NBA honors as a member of the Celtics prior to the franchise trading him to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving deal. The point guard is looking forward to the matchup in Boston — and showing his old franchise that he still has it.

“I visualize going for 50 on them. That’s the plan and to win the game. But I hope that night is not about me and it takes away from what this team is all about,” said Thomas.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • Thomas, who signed a one-year deal with the Wizards this past offseason, believes he can still reach his previous heights, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post writes. “I’m going to be an All-Star again, for sure,” Thomas said. “I know that for a fact.” Thomas has made two All-Star appearances in his career.
  • John Wall isn’t pleased with FS1’s Nick Wright comparing him to Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, as the point guard took to social media to sarcastically call Wright a “funny guy.” Wright called Wall and Goff the “anchor(s)” around their franchise’s necks “that brings them to mediocrity.”
  • Rookie Rui Hachimura recently sat down with Joe Heim of The Washington Post to his transition to the NBA among other topics. The Japanese-born forward spoke about what surprised him in making the leap to the Wizards. “Maybe that the organization is very big, and a lot of kind people work for this team. The facility is very nice, and everything is top-level,” Hachimura said.

Isaiah Thomas Chose Wizards Because Of Opportunity, Sincerity

Prior to getting the nod on Monday night, the last time Isaiah Thomas started a game was on March 14, 2018 (vs. the Warriors as a member of the Lakers). Thomas, who signed a one-year deal with the Wizards this offseason, told Hoops Rumors and other media members in attendance at the Capital One Arena that he selected Washington because of the Wizards’ willingness to give him a chance and the transparency in their planning.

“I chose the Wizards because they looked me in the eye and told me they would give me an opportunity and I can’t thank them enough,” Thomas said after Monday’s win over the Pistons.

Thomas has battled through a hip injury that seemingly derailed his career. Entering this year, he injured his thumb, which delayed his debut with the club. The point guard admits that mentally, it wasn’t easy working his way back to this point.

“It’s rehab, and for me to go through that for two years was tough, I’m not going to lie to you. It did break me at times, but it can’t storm forever,” Thomas told Hoops Rumors and other media members on Monday. “The sun eventually has to come out at some point.

“I had real faith in God, and I know that he can put you things that you can always handle. I have a great circle around me, great friends, great family. They’ve helped me through these past two years, so it’s just taking advantage of the situation. I chose the Wizards because they looked me in the eye and told me they would give me an opportunity and I can’t thank them enough.”

The Wizards’ rotation has been fluid, with several members of the team returning from injury and coach Scott Brooks tinkering with players’ minutes. While IT in the starting lineup appears here to stay, more changes could be on the horizon. Thomas appreciates playing with the starters but he’s open to any role on the club going forward.

“I know who I am, I’m one of the best basketball players in the world. It doesn’t affect me,” Thomas said. “I approach the game the same way. But, I mean, I am happy to be starting.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Isaiah Thomas Taking Advantage Of New Opportunity

Isaiah Thomas recorded his first double-double since he was back with the Celtics, scoring 17 points and dishing out 10 assists in the Wizards‘ 159-158 loss to the Rockets last night. Thomas, who signed a one-year deal with Washington this offseason, believes the team gives him the right opportunity to succeed again in the league, as he told the media on Wednesday, including Hoops Rumors.

“It’s been one injury. That’s all it’s been. Like I always said, if I get the opportunity like I did in Boston, I’d do the same thing,” Thomas said. “The trades I’ve been in, I haven’t had this same opportunity. That’s the only reason that you haven’t seen me play well. I’m just going to continue to work hard, continue to do what I can to win games here. The Wizards are giving me a great opportunity and I can’t thank them enough.”

Thomas was dealt to Cleveland during the summer of 2017 in the Kyrie Irving deal, while he was still recovering from a hip injury. The LeBron James-led Cavaliers shipped him to Los Angeles later that season as part of the package that landed Larry Nance Jr. Thomas left Los Angeles during the 2018 offseason as LBJ joined the Lakers, and found a new home in Denver on a Nuggets team with a deep rotation and not much of need for Thomas’ scoring skills.

Thomas missed the first two games of this season with the Wizards because of a thumb injury, and the team is being cautious with his workload, limiting him to 44 minutes over the past two contests. However, the franchise is impressed with what the 30-year-old brings to the table.

“He was playing well before he got hurt six weeks ago,” coach Scott Brooks said. “I wasn’t expecting it after he missed six weeks, no. It’s hard to do. It’s almost nearly impossible. Especially playing that position, but you know he’s always had the heart of a champion and that’s never going to go away. He plays through injuries, he plays through a lot of difficult things that he’s been through but he comes down and plays hard every night.

“You know I expect him to play well all the time. That’s why we brought him in. Not only to play well, [but] to just be a good leader and a good teammate to all of our younger players.”

Southeast Notes: Augustin, Thomas, Waiters, Wall

Magic point guard D.J. Augustin plans to play until he’s 35 or 36, as he told Sean Deveney of Forbes.com. Given that Augustin turns 32 next month, that would mean another three or four seasons in the league. Augustin began this season as the Magic’s starter at the point, though the team hopes that Markelle Fultz eventually emerges in that role. Augustin, an unrestricted free agent next summer, averaged 11.7 PPG and 5.3 APG last season while making 42.1% of his 3-pointers.

“I have sacrificed a lot, I am away from my kids a lot. They’re getting older,” the Magic point guard said. “I think 35, 36 would be a good age for me to be done and just spend time with them and be more involved with their lives.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Isaiah Thomas showed flashes of his former MVP self in his Wizards’ debut on Saturday night, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. He had 16 points, five assists and three rebounds in less than 20 minutes after recovering from a thumb injury. Thomas joined the Wizards on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal after a forgettable season with the Nuggets. “There’s going to be some bad days. There’s going to be some good days,” he said. “But I’m going to be even keel throughout the process knowing that if I keep taking steps forward, I’m going to get closer to where I was and hopefully surpass that.”
  • It will interesting to see if the chemistry the Heat have forged thus far will be disrupted by the returns of Dion Waiters and James Johnson, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. The shooting of Waiters and defense of Johnson can still help the team, though it played with a sense of togetherness in a win over the Bucks on Saturday, Winderman adds. Both are signed through the 2020/21 season, though Johnson has a player option.
  • Wizards point guard John Wall and Adidas are negotiating a buyout on his five-year footwear and apparel endorsement contract less than two years into the agreement, ESPN’s Nick DePaula reports. Wall, who is expected to miss the season as he recovers from an Achilles tear, was due to make nearly $25MM on the endorsement contract.