Isiah Thomas

Community Shootaround: Kyrie Irving Drama Just Starting

Kyrie Irving has a new home as the disgruntled Cavaliers All-Star was traded to the Celtics as part of a four-player trade that also sends the Nets‘ unprotected 2018 first-round pick to Cleveland. On the surface, it seems that the Irving saga is over; all involved parties can move on, and things can retain a sense of normalcy.

Wrong.

This latest chapter is just beginning as the trade and its ramifications will be examined under a microscope that won’t even reflect Isaiah Thomas’ alleged growth spurt.  Thomas, who will head to Cleveland as part of the trade, will do so with questions surrounding his hip — the same hip that caused him to miss most of the playoffs in 2016/17. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge spoke to reporters, including ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (Twitter link) on a conference call Tuesday night and indicated that Thomas’ troubled hip played “some” part in the decision to consummate a deal.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets that the Celtics expected a mix of rehab and rest would bring Thomas back to full health. Now, the Cavaliers plan with Thomas is to “monitor closely” as he recovers, adding that the team is “anxious” to give him a physical. However, Wojnarowski adds that Cleveland has “no short term concerns” with Thomas’ hip and instead view him as a player entering his contract year with extra motivation.

Thomas indicated multiple times this offseason that his goal is to land a maximum contract in free agency. In an interview with Stephen Hewitt of the Boston Herald earlier this month, Thomas said he feels confident about landing a max deal.

“Very confident,” Thomas said. “I deserve it. I put the work in, and you can put me down against any guard in the NBA. . . . My numbers are up there with the best players in the world, and my team is winning. So, I mean, you have to reward that.”

Thomas, 28, is not the only player in the deal who will reach free agency soon. Irving is set to hit the open market in 2019, but Wojnarowski reported that Irving is “thrilled” to join Boston and that the Celtics made the deal with a “great chance” to re-sign him (Twitter Link).

“Kyrie is one of the best scorers in the NBA. He has proven that on the biggest stage, the NBA Finals, the last three years,” Ainge said in a press release announcing the trade. “He’s been an NBA champion, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and a four-time All-Star. For all he’s accomplished, we think his best years are ahead of him.”

Factoring in the rest of Cleveland’s return (Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the aforementioned draft pick), the team secured a sizeable haul in exchange for a player who, for all his talented, reportedly wanted out. Pairing a healthy Thomas with Crowder’s defense along with LeBron James, Kevin Love and lower-tier talents like Derrick Rose and Tristan Thompson makes for a dynamic team.

Likewise, adding Irving to a group that includes Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown gives Boston a young, athletic, and yet still seasoned core of talent.

Whether or not that draft pick lands Cleveland a game-changing talent, Thomas or Irving re-sign with their new teams, or if any of the secondary pieces pan out will  the be major storylines to watch. The analysis of this trade will take on a new life when the Cavaliers welcome the Celtics to Cleveland on opening night October 17.

Do you think this trade works out well for both sides? Do you think Thomas’ hip injury will be an issue? Will Irving cement himself as Boston’s primary option? Sound off in the comments below!

Knicks Rumors: Ujiri, Griffin, Carmelo, Mills, KP

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri was immediately identified as the Knicks’ top target to replace Phil Jackson when the Knicks parted ways with Jackson earlier this week, but it appears Ujiri won’t be going anywhere. As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com writes, the Knicks are no longer expected to ask for the Raptors’ permission to speak to Ujiri.

According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, one league source said that the Raptors would have asked for multiple draft picks, including a first-rounder, as compensation if the Knicks wanted to hire Ujiri. As such, the team appears to have shifted its focus to David Griffin and other candidates. Shelburne cites sources who say that Griffin has spoken to the Knicks, and is expected to have more discussions when New York moves to the next level of its search process. The club is currently assembling a list of candidates for the job.

Here’s more out of New York:

  • An NBA source tells Berman that the Knicks are unlikely to do anything with Carmelo Anthony until a new president of basketball operations is hired.
  • Current GM Steve Mills is expected to remain with the team no matter who is hired as president, according to Berman.
  • In a separate piece for The New York Post, Berman breaks down the free agency landscape for the Knicks, noting that the team may have more options with Jackson out of the picture.
  • According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), Isiah Thomas isn’t considered a candidate for the Knicks’ job, but still has owner James Dolan‘s ear as an advisor. Kyler adds (via Twitter) that Ujiri and Thunder president Sam Presti were considered “pie-in-the-sky” candidates.
  • While the pre-draft Kristaps Porzingis rumors were viewed by some observers as Jackson sending a “message” to the young big man, several members of the organization besides Jackson were in favor of a trade, sources tell Ian Begley of ESPN.com. Still, the possibility of a Porzingis trade will likely die if the team can get back on the same page with him.
  • The Knicks have strong interest in bringing back Justin Holiday, and some members of the organization consider George Hill a free agent of interest, according to Begley. Both Begley and Berman also identify P.J. Tucker as a probably free agent target for the club.

Knicks Rumors: Thomas, Ujiri, Griffin, Presti

10:42pm: The Knicks have since been in touch with Griffin and the ex-Cavs general manager will be among New York’s initial interviews, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets.

11:01am: Given how his first stint as the Knicks’ general manager went, Isiah Thomas would seem to be an extremely unlikely candidate to replace Phil Jackson for the team’s head front office job this offseason. Marc Berman of The New York Post confirmed as much on Wednesday, writing that Thomas wasn’t being considered.

However, at least one person close to the franchise isn’t so sure Thomas is entirely out of the running, according to Frank Isola of The New York Daily News, who says his source described the former Knicks GM as “a dark horse candidate” to fill the current opening (Twitter link). While that revelation may inspire some panic among Knicks fans, it’s worth noting that the “dark horse” descriptor suggests Thomas probably isn’t at the top of James Dolan‘s wish list.

Here’s more on the Knicks’ search for a new president of basketball operations:

  • The Knicks’ interest in Raptors president Masai Ujiri is real, but Ujiri is entering the second year of a five-year, $32MM contract in Toronto, says Sam Amick of USA Today. A source close to ownership of MLSE – the group that owns the Raptors – tells Michael Grange of Sportsnet not to even bother with the Ujiri rumors, but Grange hears from an NBA source that the Knicks will nonetheless be “coming hard” for the Raptors’ president.
  • Having received a second-round pick as compensation when Orlando hired away GM Jeff Weltman, the Raptors would certainly ask for even more compensation if the Knicks wanted to hire Ujiri, and New York would be very unlikely to consider that, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com.
  • A league source informed ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that Jerry West intended to reach out to Tim Leiweke, who is running the Knicks’ search, to endorse David Griffin as a candidate for New York’s opening. According to ESPN’s report, Griffin has “long coveted” an opportunity like the Knicks’ job. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Knicks hadn’t formally reached out to Griffin or his agent, but had begun doing background research on him, per ESPN.
  • Thunder president of basketball operations Sam Presti has been internally discussed by the Knicks as a possible target, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.com. Like Ujiri, Presti is under contract with another NBA team and that club would likely require compensation, though the exact terms of his deal aren’t known.

Reaction To Phil Jackson’s Firing

Phil Jackson is gone, but owner James Dolan’s next move will determine how soon the Knicks can rebuild, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. It’s not clear yet whom New York is targeting to take Jackson’s place, but the author points out that Dolan has a history of poor decisions when it comes to choosing someone to run his basketball team. An obvious choice, Bontemps notes, is former Cavaliers GM David Griffin, who couldn’t reach a new agreement in Cleveland.

GM Steve Mills will run the Knicks until a new president is hired, and Bontemps says he should start building the team around Kristaps Porzingis. He adds that Jackson’s feud with Porzingis, not the long-running one with Carmelo Anthony, is what led to today’s decision. Jackson shopped Porzingis around the league last week, and although there was plenty of interest, no offers were deemed acceptable.

Celtics Notes: Thomas, Trade Deadline, Draft

A panel of CSN New England reporters agreed yesterday that the Celtics were unlikely to make a big trade before the February 23 trade deadline. Citing lofty “in-season” price tags, Chris Forsberg went so far as to say that there was “no way,” general manager Danny Ainge would give away too many assets for one star player.

When the conversation shifted to Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler in particular, there was consensus among the scribes that Chicago may be asking too much. “It’s going to take a godfather offer [from the Celtics],” Abby Chin explained, “including two of the Nets picks.”

Over the course of the last few seasons, the Celtics have shown patience in their rebuild and that pattern, they say, is unlikely to end.

There’s more Celtics news:

  • Despite the impending trade deadline Celtics head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t anticipate significant changes to his roster. “When we have a team like we have now, I don’t anticipate a ton of change but you never know what comes to the table,” Stevens told Kyle Draper of CSN New England. “Those are discussions that Danny and his staff will have and they’ll bring anything serious to my table.”
  • The Celtics need a better scorer to take some pressure off of Isaiah Thomas in the playoffs, says Bob Ryan of CSN New England, in addition to a role playing rebounder. The scribe echoes a popular sentiment that trading away the Nets’ 2017 first-rounder pick for a player of marginal impact, however, would be unwise. Ryan goes on to acknowledge Jimmy Butler’s strengths as a two-way player but says that the player he would want the C’s to pursue most is DeMarcus Cousins.
  • When Isaiah Thomas participates in All-Star festivities this weekend, he’ll be doing so with an ulterior motive. “I’m going to see what guys are talking about and dip my head in there and hopefully bring some more talent to Boston,” the guard told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England.
  • The Celtics will have plenty of decisions to make in the next six months, long after the trade deadline comes and goes. One such decision will involve which rookie to draft with the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick writes Johnny Auping of RealGM. Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, “two ball-dominant guards with unusually developed skillsets for freshmen,” sit atop most mock drafts at this point in the season.
  • The forthcoming trade deadline will give the NBA community a clear sense of whether the Celtics plan to win-now or build for the future, writes Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders. Hamilton writes that, given the age of their core, the C’s may not want to wait three-to-four years for their young players (and a possible 2017 lottery pick) to develop.

Celtics Notes: Thomas, Durant, Stevens

Isaiah Thomas will continue to try and lure Kevin Durant to the Celtics after the Boston guard deleted a tweet he had posted with the No. 35 next to a green shamrock, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe writes. It’s unlikely that Durant joins the Celtics, as Himmelsbach points out, but Thomas secured Durant’s number and plans to make a pitch via phone to the superstar.

“I definitely want to give him some time,” Thomas said. “I know that was a tough series and a long season for him. I wouldn’t want anyone calling me up about the biggest decision of my life right after the season’s over. So I’ll probably give him some time and casually talk to him, and then go all-in.”

Here’s more out of Boston:

  • Thomas, in the same piece from Himmelsbach, said the Celtics’ decisions to extend the contracts of head coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sent a “great message” to current and future players of the organization. Thomas also hopes restricted free agent Jared Sullinger and unrestricted free agent Evan Turner return to the Celtics, Himmelsbach relays.
  • Stevens’ wife, Tracy Wilhelmy Stevens, who is an attorney by trade, helped negotiate the deal and Stevens said that process began in the middle of the season, Mike Petraglia of WEEI relays. Talks of the extension started in early January at a time when the Celtics were scuffling so that indicates how much the front office and ownership believes in Stevens, Petraglia adds. “I guess I was kinda surprised,” Stevens said. “Again, it tells you the way that they think and the way that they value people around here. It’s why you enjoy working here.”

Atlantic Notes: Isiah, King, Sixers, Raptors

Knicks owner James Dolan doesn’t hide his affection for Isiah Thomas, but he can’t envision a scenario in which he ever hires him for the Knicks again, telling Bryant Gumbel of HBO’s Real Sports that he doesn’t think fans in New York would give him a fair chance, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News relays (Twitter link). Thomas, to whom Gumbel also spoke, ruled out coaching the Knicks again, but didn’t say he wouldn’t seek a front office position with the team, Bondy notes. See more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov complimented the job performance of GM Billy King in an interview with NetsDaily, but he wouldn’t address the matter of whether he’ll give King an extension. King is in the final year of his deal and conflicting reports emerged in May about whether he and the team were close to an extension.
  • Brett Brown has said the Sixers plan to keep only three point guards for opening night, but with top options Tony Wroten and Kendall Marshall injured and T.J. McConnell closing in on a regular season spot, Brown suggests the team could keep more because of their ability to slide to shooting guard, observes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “You know you look at [Scottie] Wilbekin … and say he’s a two-guard,” Brown said. “He can shoot, and that’s true. I can look at Isaiah [Canaan] and say he’s not always a point guard. Let him go be, pick him, Lou Williams. He’s a barrel-chested scorer.”
  • The Raptors had mixed results with two point guards on the floor at the same time last season, but with Cory Joseph having replaced Williams and Greivis Vasquez, coach Dwane Casey is more optimistic about such lineups, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca examines. “The problem last year going small wasn’t Kyle [Lowry], it was the other small guys with him,” Casey said. “Now we have speed and quickness with Kyle, we have toughness with Kyle defensively so you don’t get burned as much defensively when you do go small.”

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Galloway, Isiah

Phil Jackson‘s concerns about the slender frame of Kristaps Porzingis have fueled the fire of this year’s No. 4 overall pick, as Porzingis made clear Wednesday, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Jackson had expressed worry to Charley Rosen of ESPN.com that “like Shawn Bradley, who was nevertheless a pretty good player, KP might almost be too tall for the game.”

“Yeah I saw it. I don’t know what to say. I guess that’s what Phil does, gets us to work hard and fired up. That fired me up. I’m like, ‘I’m not Shawn Bradley,’ you know?” Porzingis said, according to Bondy. “I want to be better than Shawn Bradley obviously and be stronger than him, but I’m a different player.”

The 7’2″ Porzingis, who’s gained 11 pounds this summer eating at least 5,000 calories a day, said that he declined to play for the Latvian national team at the Eurobasket tournament this month because the Knicks encouraged him not to, Bondy also notes. See more on the blue-and-orange here:

  • Langston Galloway‘s partial guarantee jumped from $220K to $440K when he remained on the Knicks roster through Tuesday, as our schedule of contract guarantee dates shows. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders first reported the guarantee structure. Galloway now has the league’s fifth-largest partial guarantee for this season.
  • The success Isiah Thomas has had with the New York Liberty, whom he secretly began working with in January before the team announced his hiring in May, probably hasn’t increased his chances to return to the Knicks, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Officials with MSG indicated to Berman that owner James Dolan still has no desire to reinsert Thomas, with whom Dolan is friends, into the line of fire as Knicks president. Thomas and Knicks GM Steve Mills, whom Jackson wants as his successor in the team president’s role, aren’t close, Berman notes.
  • Porzingis was New York’s top offseason addition, Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders opines, in an offseason in which the team’s free agent acquisitions simply weren’t of the caliber that Jackson was hired to make, as fellow Basketball Insiders scribe Lang Greene also writes in the site’s season preview.

Atlantic Notes: Smith, Embiid, Thomas

Knicks president Phil Jackson would love to have big man Jason Smith back for the 2015/16 season, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. Jackson is aware that it may not be possible to re-sign the unrestricted free agent if he is offered a deal by another team for more than the veteran’s minimum, Berman adds. New York may be willing to go above the minimum to retain the 29-year-old, but that is dependent on how the team’s pursuit of bigger ticket free agents goes, the Post scribe notes. The Zen Master has acknowledged that he may not be able to land a big man via the NBA Draft, and with the Knicks’ roster currently devoid of big men, as well as Smith relaying that he would indeed like to return to New York, the two sides could be a fit, Berman relays.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors brought in Kentucky center Dakari Johnson for a workout on Tuesday, Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun relays. Johnson is projected to be a second round pick in this year’s draft, and though Toronto doesn’t currently own any second-rounders, the team is considering trying to purchase one, Wolstat adds. “You always got to come into the opportunity and just make the best of it, no matter the circumstances, you’ve got to come in and work your hardest,” Johnson said. “That’s the type of person I am, I love to compete. I initially didn’t have this workout scheduled, but they added it on for me and I decided to come in and just compete. I just love to compete.
  • Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil has indicated that additional doctors will evaluate the latest setback in the healing of center Joel Embiid‘s right foot, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “We’re still waiting,” O’Neil said. “We have another three doctors to come see him. The nice thing about jobs like these – you can literally get the best experts in the world. All you have to do is call and they love to see us.” Philly has legitimate concerns that Embiid could miss the entire 2015/16 campaign.
  • The Nets are pessimistic that they will be able to move up from the No. 29 overall pick in this year’s draft, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com tweets.
  • The New York Liberty of the WNBA have suspended consideration of Isiah Thomas‘ application to become part owner of the team, Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News relays (Twitter link). Thomas will remain in his duties as team president, but the ownership review process is expected to take an extended period, Berman notes in a separate piece. Both Jackson and GM Steve Mills had expressed concerns to owner James Dolan when he informed them he was hiring the former Knicks executive.

Knicks Rumors: Jackson, Isiah, Free Agency

Knicks president Phil Jackson mentioned the need to add big men multiple times within an interview with Scott Cacciola of The New York Times, leading Tim Bontemps of the New York Post to speculate that the team is zeroing in on reported target Greg Monroe (Twitter link). Jackson suggested to Cacciola that the team would have drafted a big man, likely either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor, if it had landed one of the top two picks in the draft. The Zen Master admitted the lottery setback that gave the team only the No. 4 pick resulted in a change of plans that figures to have a ripple effect on the rest of the summer.

“We know there are a limited number of guys we can bring in this year,” Jackson said about free agency. “We think we’ll get competitive guys to play. I think we’ll complement the guys we have here, and we’re going to move forward. We do know we’re going to have big guys in that group. We’re going to have to search out some big men.”

We’ll pass along more revelations from Jackson’s interview with Cacciola here:

  • Jackson told Cacciola that he and GM Steve Mills expressed their concerns to owner James Dolan when he presented them with the idea of hiring of former Knicks executive Isiah Thomas as president of the New York Liberty, a move with which Jackson was reportedly uncomfortable. “Jim Dolan had talked to us about it over dinner, maybe a month before it happened,” Jackson said. “We said, ‘Are you cognizant of the fact that this at least has the look of putting the fox in the henhouse?’ Is that a good term? In reviewing the history of it, we were told what the approach was by the Garden and how it went down. Jim said, ‘If you have any suggestions that you want to come back with, I’m open.’ And not being in that field, I didn’t have any information. It’s not where my head is at. So we’re not giving them any advice, and it’s going both ways.
  • Mills is “the future of this franchise,” Jackson told Cacciola, making it clear that he envisions a longer tenure for the GM than for himself.
  • All of the Knicks players expressed in their exit interviews that they’d like to return to the team, Mills said to Cacciola. The team only has fully guaranteed contracts with Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early.
  • Jackson once more touted the triangle and expressed full confidence in his abilities as an executive after subpar results in his first full season in charge of the roster. “Without a doubt,” Jackson said in response to Cacciola’s question about whether he still would have taken the job last year, knowing what he knows now. “I knew it was going to be a challenge. We just didn’t have any room to work last year. We knew that we were going to have to make big changes with the limitations that we had, being in a locked-in situation as far as the salary cap goes. That’s why when I said recently that I didn’t know why I wasn’t given some votes for Executive of the Year, I wasn’t kidding. I was really serious. We had a yeoman’s job of having to get rid of a lot of fat on our roster to get to where we are. I saw Mitch Kupchak got a vote, so I know some people valued what the Lakers were doing obviously.”