Isaiah Thomas

Stein’s Latest: Lakers, Thomas, Holmes, Portis, More

Dwight Howard appears to be a strong candidate to rejoin the Lakers, who are also interested in veteran shooters Patty Mills and Wayne Ellington, according to Marc Stein of Substack. L.A. is looking for low-cost options to fill out its roster after the trade that brought Russell Westbrook from the Wizards, and Howard, Mills and Ellington may be willing to accept minimal deals for the chance to play for a title contender.

Given their financial position, the Lakers could have trouble holding onto Alex Caruso, Stein adds. The fourth-year guard has been effective in a bench role during his time in Los Angeles, and many teams are expected to pursue him.

There’s more from Stein:

  • The Celtics are interested in bringing back Isaiah Thomas, who was an All-Star in Boston before being sent out in the Kyrie Irving trade. New president of basketball operations Brad Stevens is a strong supporter of Thomas, who played three games for the Pelicans last season.
  • The Kings are expected to give center Richaun Holmes an offer in the four-year, $50MM range. However, he may do better on the open market after back-to-back strong seasons in Sacramento.
  • Several teams would like to add Bobby Portis, but there’s a belief around the league that he will stay with the Bucks despite their limited resources to re-sign him.
  • The Mavericks are virtually certain to keep center Boban Marjanović, who is a close friend of Luka Doncic.
  • There were some pre-draft trade rumors involving Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but the Thunder still see him as a franchise cornerstone and plan to use their draft capital to build around him. Gilgeous-Alexander is expected to receive a maximum extension on his rookie contract this summer, which would pay him $168MM over five years.
  • John Collins was the top target for the Spurs, who will have about $40MM to spend, but now that he’s expected to stay in Atlanta, San Antonio may shift to restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen.

Pelicans Won’t Re-Sign Isaiah Thomas Immediately

The 10-day contract that Isaiah Thomas signed with the Pelicans has expired, and the team doesn’t plan to re-sign him to another deal right away, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No decision has been made on the long-term future for Thomas, Lopez adds, but the team has luxury tax concerns and may use the entire two weeks the league allows to re-add a 14th man (Twitter link). Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link) provides some additional details on how the Pelicans could eventually fill their two open roster spots before the end of the season while avoiding the tax.

Thomas made a positive impression on the Pelicans during his 10 days with the club, bringing veteran leadership and mentoring young players. However, recent injuries to Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker could affect what New Orleans decides to do with its roster (Twitter link).

Playing for the first time in more than a year, Thomas appeared in three games, averaging 7.7 points and 1.7 assists in 16 minutes per night. If the Pelicans decide to re-sign him, they can offer one more 10-day contract before having to decide whether to keep him for the rest of the season.

Southwest Notes: Dieng, Wall, Thomas, Williamson

Big man Gorgui Dieng is dealing with a right shoulder injury that will nag him the rest of the season but he’ll play through the pain, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News. Dieng banged his shoulder into Kings forward Chimezie Metu while making his Spurs debut late last month. Dieng signed with San Antonio after getting bought out and waived by Memphis. “It’s going to hurt throughout the whole season, but from this point on it cannot get worse,” Dieng said.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets guard John Wall will not play both ends of a back-to-back set for the remainder of the season, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reports. “Moving forward, we are going to make sure we’re smart with his injury management, the wear that he has, all of these things,” head coach Stephen Silas said. Wall has started 33 games in his first season with Houston, averaging 20.5 PPG and 6.8 APG, after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon that sidelined him last season.
  • Isaiah Thomas is back in the NBA on a 10-day contract with the Pelicans and he claims his hip injuries are now a non-issue, Andrew Lopez of ESPN writes. “I’m 102%. I’m more than good,” Thomas said. “This is the best I ever felt since before I got injured. It’s not even a question no more.” In his first two appearances with New Orleans, Thomas has averaged 10.5 PPG and 2.5 APG in 22.o MPG.
  • Zion Williamson is increasingly serving as a point forward for the Pelicans and coach Stan Van Gundy believes that’s the role the All-Star will have going forward, according to William Guillory of The Athletic. Williamson piled up 37 points and eight assists against Philadelphia on Friday. “We want to get him more experience with that stuff going forward because I think that’s where his future is in this game. I really do,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve increased it throughout the year, giving him more and more opportunities. We’d like to get him more moving forward.”

Southwest Notes: Thomas, New Rockets, Hart, Johnson

With veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas now joining the Pelicans on a 10-day contract, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets that New Orleans will be an additional $110,998 closer to the NBA’s luxury tax cap. Thomas, meanwhile, will earn $159,698 during his 10-day stint with the club.

Marks adds that the Pelicans remains $253,803 below the tax at present, but, assuming new addition James Johnson does not achieve certain bonus clauses in his expiring $16MM deal, the team may save an additional $253K at season’s end.

Thomas will wear jersey No. 24 in tribute to departed Lakers star Kobe Bryant, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN. He last wore No. 4 with the Wizards during the 2019/20 season. The 5’9″ point guard will not suit up this evening for the Pelicans as they face off against the Rockets, due to the league’s coronavirus protocols, but is expected to join the club Monday, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Former Heat and Celtics teammates Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk are excited to remain together for the rebuilding Rockets, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Feigen notes that the duo has played more games together than anyone else on Houston. “That’s kind of a crazy stat that [he and I] have played more together than any other two teammates on our team,” Olynyk observed. “Hopefully, we can bring that chemistry.”
  • The 21-27 Pelicans will strive to make a playoff push without injured shooting guard Josh Hart. Hart is expected to miss several weeks with a torn UCL in his right thumb, writes Christian Clark of“Could he get back by the end of the year? Yeah,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “But he’s not going to be back in two weeks. It’s a significant amount of time. He’s going to miss the vast majority of what’s left of the season.” New Orleans, the No. 12 seed, is currently just 1.5 games behind the tenth-seeded Warriors (and a play-in opportunity) in the West at present.
  • Second-year Spurs wing Keldon Johnson is discovering how to navigate erratic output as he continues to hone his NBA game, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News“That’s just the NBA for you,” his teammate Derrick White said. “The league kind of figures you out, and you just got to make adjustments.” Even still, Johnson has increased his contributions on the floor for San Antonio. He has started 42 of his 44 contests with the Spurs this year, after starting just one game last season, and has seen his minutes and touches increase significantly.

Pelicans Sign Isaiah Thomas To 10-Day Contract

APRIL 3: The signing is official, according to a team press release.

APRIL 2: The Pelicans will give Isaiah Thomas the NBA opportunity he has been waiting for, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Sources tell Charania that the veteran guard will sign a 10-day contract with New Orleans.

Thomas, 32, was a starter for the first half of last season with the Wizards before being traded at the 2020 deadline to the Clippers, who waived him three days later. Thomas averaged 12.2 points and 3.7 assists in 40 games for Washington, but defensive issues limited his effectiveness.

He was last seen in action in February as part of Team USA in the FIBA AmeriCup qualifying tournament, where scored 28 total points in victories over the Bahamas and Mexico.

The Pelicans have two roster spots open, so they won’t have to make a move before signing Thomas. They faced a Saturday deadline to add a player to get back to the 14-man roster limit.

Thomas has been undergoing COVID-19 testing in New Orleans and is expected to be available for Sunday’s game with the Rockets, sources tell Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). The Pelicans were looking into signing him before a recent rash of injuries to Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Josh Hart.

And-Ones: COVID-19, I. Thomas, Lakers, Bucks, S. Bradley

The NBA and NBPA announced on Wednesday that three of the 490 players tested for the coronavirus since March 10 returned confirmed positive tests. That’s relatively good news for the league, since there was some concern about players moving all over the country during the All-Star break before returning to their teams. It appears there hasn’t been a spike in COVID-19 cases following the break.

Meanwhile, as players and staffers around the league begin to receive vaccinations for the coronavirus, the NBA and the NBPA have agreed to relax certain protocols and restrictions related to the virus, as Baxter Holmes of ESPN details.

Fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to quarantine following exposure to COVID-19, while fully vaccinated teams won’t have to wear masks at their practice facilities, Holmes writes. Additionally, restrictions related to home visitors and in-restaurant dining are being loosened for those individuals and teams.

A player is considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks after his final dose, while a team meets the criteria once 85% of its players and 85% of its staff members have been vaccinated, Holmes adds.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link) has heard that the Lakers and Bucks are among the teams to watch if Isaiah Thomas gets another NBA opportunity. While Thomas continues to pursue an NBA comeback, he may have to wait until after teams see who’s available at the trade deadline and on the buyout market.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic shares eight creative, hypothetical trades he’d like to see happen at the deadline, including a Hornets/Hawks swap that involves John Collins, Devonte’ Graham, and P.J. Washington, and a four-team trade that sends Gorgui Dieng to the Nets.
  • The Mavericks shared an extremely sad piece of news this week, announcing on their website that former NBA center Shawn Bradley was struck by a car in January while riding his bicycle, resulting in a traumatic spinal cord injury that has left him paralyzed. Bradley has spent the last eight weeks hospitalized and undergoing rehab, but is said to be “in good spirits” and aims to use his platform to bring greater public awareness to the importance of bike safety.

And-Ones: Trade Deadline Preview, Rising Stars Game, IT, Boogie

With a month to go before the NBA’s March 25 trade deadline for 2020/21, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) supplies a very informative breakdown of what moves all 30 NBA clubs could be looking to make, plus which teams will be prioritizing the present over the future and vice versa.

Marks speculates that several interesting names could be available via trade this year, from valuable veteran forwards like P.J. Tucker, Thaddeus Young and Aaron Gordon to recent All-Star guards on big-money expiring deals like Victor Oladipo, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • There will be no Rising Stars Game between rookies and sophomore pros this season at the March 7 All-Star Game in Atlanta, but the NBA will still name players to rosters on Wednesday, March 3, according to a league announcement. 20 first- and second-year players will be announced in total — 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international countries.
  • Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated takes a detailed look at the latest comeback attempt for free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas, who finally underwent a hip surgery last year to address an issue that had impacted his play since 2017. Beck contends that the 32-year-old, 5’9″ Thomas looked like his springier pre-injury self across two USA Basketball victories during a 2022 FIBA AmeriCup qualifier in San Juan, Puerto Rico last weekend. Thomas averaged 14 PPG and 2.5 APG during the contests.
  • After being waived by the Rockets earlier this week, center DeMarcus Cousins has cleared waivers to become an unrestricted free agent, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). Houston apparently tried to trade Cousins, playing on a $1.62MM fully-guaranteed veteran’s minimum contract, to no avail.

And-Ones: I. Thomas, Hezonja, P. Gasol, All-Star Bonuses

Team USA won two games in convincing fashion over the weekend, defeating the Bahamas and Mexico in the FIBA AmeriCup qualifying tournament, according to an Associated Press story. The team, which advances to the September 2022 tourney, featured familiar names such as Joe Johnson, Brandon Bass and Isaiah Thomas, who was hoping to use the event to boost his chances for an NBA comeback.

Thomas, who hasn’t played competitively since being traded to the Clippers and waived last February, scored 19 points in Friday’s game and nine on Saturday.

“The world knows I’ve got what it takes. So, it’s just about showing that I’m healthy,” he said. “My skill didn’t go anywhere, it was just about getting a hundred percent healthy, which I am right now.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Mario Hezonja, who was in training camp with the Grizzlies, has reached a deal to play for Panathinaikos in Greece, writes Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The new contract will cover the rest of the season with an option for next year. The fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Hezonja played for the Magic, Knicks and Trail Blazers in five NBA seasons. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 53 games with Portland last year.
  • Veteran center Pau Gasol denied rumors over the weekend that he’s close to signing with Barcelona, but Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo hasn’t given up hopes of seeing him play again, relays Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. “It’s a rumor, obviously we hope to see Pau on a basketball court again,” said Scariolo, an assistant coach for the Raptors. “Our desire is to see him still play at the top level and we will keep our fingers crossed.”
  • With the All-Star reserves set to be announced Tuesday, ESPN’s Bobby Marks takes a look at the five players whose contracts include bonuses for making the team. The largest, at $1.3MM, belongs to Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, who Marks believes is virtually certain to be selected. Jazz center Rudy Gobert, with a $1MM bonus, also seems like a sure thing. The PacersDomantas Sabonis ($1MM bonus) and the KnicksJulius Randle ($945K) face more difficulty because of the competition in the Eastern frontcourt. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who has been to six straight All-Star Games, would earn a $500K bonus for making it again, but he appears to have little chance of being chosen.

And-Ones: I. Thomas, Trades, Lin, Cunningham

While Isaiah Thomas is excited and honored to represent Team USA at the AmeriCup qualifiers in Puerto Rico this weekend, he admitted in a conversation with Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press that he’s also viewing the event as an opportunity to showcase himself for NBA teams.

“My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA as soon as possible,” Thomas said. “This allows me to compete against other professionals, represent my country at the same time — which is an honor and a privilege — and ultimately show NBA teams that I’m back to myself and I’m 100% healthy. That’s why I chose to come here. When Team USA brought it to me, it was a no-brainer.”

As Reynolds notes, the games themselves won’t mean much for Team USA, which has already qualified for the 2022 AmeriCup tournament by going undefeated in earlier qualifying games. But they’ll be significant for Thomas, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since being released by the Clippers last February. Veteran teammate Joe Johnson said Thomas has looked “great” in practices.

“One thing I’ll say: In pick and rolls, I think he’s probably going to be unstoppable,” Johnson said of Thomas. “Bigs, I don’t know what they’ll do. Do you get out and hedge? He’ll go around you and split you. Do you try to catch him? He’ll pull up for the jumper. He has a great arsenal. It’s been fun to watch him play, man. I will tell you that.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the basketball world:

Isaiah Thomas To Play For Team USA In AmeriCup Qualifiers

Veteran guard Isaiah Thomas has committed to playing for Team USA in the upcoming AmeriCup qualifying tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Team USA has technically already qualified for the 2022 AmeriCup tournament with a strong showing in previous qualifiers in 2020, but will still take part in next month’s event. The U.S. squad – coached by Joe Prunty, a longtime NBA assistant for the Suns, Bucks, Nets, and others – will face The Bahamas on February 19 and Mexico on 20.

Since undergoing a procedure last year to address a nagging hip issue, Thomas has talked repeatedly about wanting to return to the NBA, and said earlier this month that he has had discussions with multiple teams. He last played for the Wizards to start the 2019/20 season, but was traded to the Clippers at last February’s deadline and was subsequently waived.

Thomas, who will turn 32 in February, was still productive on offense in D.C. last season, averaging 12.2 PPG and 3.7 APG with a .413 3PT% in 40 games (23.1 MPG). However, the Wizards had a 120.2 defensive rating during his minutes, and he ranked 500th out of 503 players in defensive real plus-minus prior to the NBA’s hiatus.

As Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), playing in a couple games for Team USA next month should present Thomas with a good opportunity to show that he’s healthy and effective.