Storyline: Isaiah Thomas Injury

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Isaiah Thomas laughed at the doctor. His latest injury, a torn ligament in his left thumb, had rewritten Murphy’s Law. On Sept 16., Thomas was playing in the first pickup game of the day with his new Washington Wizards teammates when he attempted to secure the ball and jammed his thumb. Though he played on, the swollen finger would later turn purple. After Thomas received the results of an MRI exam — which revealed he would require surgery to repair a ruptured radial collateral ligament — all he could do was chuckle.
1 year ago via ESPN

Isaiah Thomas is hopeful his season with the Denver Nuggets and a full 2019 summer of work become a pathway back into an NBA rotation, a full-time resumption of a career sidetracked with hip surgery. “Nobody knew what to expect with me coming off hip surgery last year, and two summers of rehab,” Thomas told ESPN. “Now, I can go back to being a gym rat this summer, work on my game again, and build my body back up — my muscle mass, my leg strength — all like I had going into the 2017 season.”

One of Crawford’s strongest NBA relationships is actually with a former Celtic who was traded for Irving. Isaiah Thomas and Crawford share Seattle-Tacoma roots, and the latter is bullish on Thomas’ future as he prepares to return from his hip problem. “That’s a brother,” Crawford said. “He’ll be a monster when he comes back. I couldn’t imagine him missing one day of basketball, and with all this time he’s missed, he’s going to be a monster. I’m excited for him.”

Former Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas has yet to play in a game for the Nuggets this season as he continues to work his way back from last March’s hip surgery. Suns guard Jamal Crawford, who has been one of Thomas’s closest friends for more than 10 years, said he speaks to the point guard every day. And as the doubters pile on — just as they have throughout Thomas’s career — Crawford said that Thomas is just using it as fuel. “It’s going to create an even bigger monster, how hungry he’ll be to get back out on that court,” Crawford said. “He loves basketball and he’d be hungry if he missed one game. The fact that he missed all this time, he’s going to be a monster.”

Last summer Thomas, who once had visions of signing a maximum-salary contract when he reached free agency, inked a one-year deal with the Nuggets for $2 million, the veteran’s minimum. “With him, nothing’s ever come easy, so why expect it now?” Crawford said. “Not that he did, but in general that’s just his journey. He’s doing well, considering everything. He’s working to get back. He loves the game as much as anybody I’ve ever been around, so I know it’s killing him.”

Thomas, who is targeting a return some time this month, has had to channel his energy into being a leader in practices, on the sidelines and in huddles. It’s also not uncommon to see him jawing with opponents during games, his suited frame teeming with animation. “I see Isaiah’s true personality at times, but I also see there are times where he’s frustrated,” Malone said. “Some guys when they’re out and they’re not playing, they’re okay with that. We have two guys in Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas, it’s killing both of those guys not to be able to play.”

Katy Winge: Talked with @Isaiah Thomas this morning about Sue Bird. I started the conversation by asking what comes to his mind when he hears that name. “A legend. A basketball legend.” He also told me Bird was someone he turned to before deciding to get hip surgery. His full thoughts: pic.twitter.com/795d5b0poD

Smart has no doubt that Thomas, who has spent his entire life in basketball overcoming the cynicism of the basketball establishment, will eventually succeed again, this time as a proven veteran scorer on a team of young stars. “Oh man, IT, man, he’s gonna be alright,” said Smart. “I think it’s good he’s taken this full year off to rehab that body and give himself a chance to be ready for next season. Get his mind back right, clear his mind and get focused. But this will do justice for him and he’ll come back strong.”

Chris Dempsey: Isaiah Thomas continues to rehab from arthroscopic hip surgery in March. His availability for training camp next week remains in question. Here is Tim Connelly, #Nuggets President of Basketball Ops, on Thomas’ status during an interview for Wednesday’s Nuggets 360 on @AltitudeTV

More than three hours after the first day of practice wrapped up last Thursday, Isaiah Thomas was still working out on the court inside UNLV’s practice facility with Phil Handy, one of the NBA’s top player development coaches, who was recently hired by the Toronto Raptors. Despite still recovering from hip surgery earlier this year, Thomas was in Vegas and participating as much as he could, wanting to show how much it meant to him to be part of the program. It also served as yet another reminder of how much has changed for him since he exited the 2017 playoffs with a hip injury that sent his career careening in a very different direction from where it was not long ago.
2 years ago via ESPN

“If I didn’t play in the playoffs, I’d be OK,” Thomas says. “I’d be getting paid. I’d be who I am — who I was. But you couldn’t tell me in that moment in time — with everything I was going through — that, OK, I should just sit out. I don’t think Boston went about it the right way, as well. “But at the same time, it was hard for me to sit out. I just lost my sister, one of the closest people in my life. Basketball was the only thing that was going to help me out. I played until I literally couldn’t play anymore. And that was not a good business decision if I was looking in the long term, but I was looking in the ‘right now.’ That’s just what it was.

Thomas has dropped in free-agent stature almost through no fault of his own. The problem here is his hip, which front-office execs around the league fear is either pre-arthritic or already arthritic. Maybe the only way that Thomas has hurt his own free agency has been by not choosing to have hip surgery sooner during last season, when he was an All-Star and an MVP candidate for the Celtics. “It’s a red flag that he did not have surgery on it,” one general manager told Sporting News. “If you have a problem that can be fixed heading into your free-agent year, you get surgery. If there is concern that you can’t fix it with surgery, that means probably there is something more wrong. It is something that, obviously, the doctors will look at closely.”

Off the floor, he would be subject to more swelling and increased pain. Of course, he’s gotten accustomed to hip pain in recent years. But any team that signs him this summer will protect itself against the possibility that Thomas has serious hip damage. “I think everybody likes the guy,” the GM said. “You root for him. But do you want to pay him $12 or 14 million when you know you’re also paying for all the headaches that his health could give you? Someone will get him, but it’s going to be a low-risk deal.”

A year ago, Thomas seemed destined to land a maximum contract in the summer of 2018. Now, he faces a questionable market in which there are already only a few teams with max slots available. Will anyone want to spend that kind of money on a player with an unproven hip? Thomas said he was unconcerned with free agency. “The results will show that the surgery only fixed it,” he said. “The world knew that I never got my labrum fixed when I was going through that and trying to heal on my own. … The decision that I made it felt like it was the best decision for me personally, individually, as a basketball player for the rest of my career.”

“I don’t know what will happen in terms of [Isaiah Thomas’] contract, but he deserves to make money in this game,” said Olynyk, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Heat this summer. “He’s brought a lot to the game, brought a lot to that city in Boston. Anywhere he goes, he gives his heart and soul to the game of basketball. Last year, [during our playoff run] we didn’t know it, but he was sacrificing his own career for everybody in that city. No one knew that at the time.

So what’s next? There are only a handful of teams with real cap space this summer and even fewer where Thomas makes sense. The Sixers will have room — they also have Markelle Fultz. The Mavericks have room. But there’s Dennis Smith, too. Chicago and Atlanta are rebuilding and make no sense for a near-30-year-old point guard coming off a brutal season. “No one is going long there [with a deal], in all likelihood,” former Cavs GM David Griffin told Yahoo Sports. “[The hip] is a very significant factor. His whole game is predicated upon quickness and creating shot separation. If he can’t do that, he is a small non-defender.”

Thomas, meanwhile, estimated he’s at about 75-80 percent as he continues to work his way back from that hip injury. A hindered Thomas, coupled with an injured-and-absent Love, could spell disastrous for a Cavs team that will fall to fourth in the East if they lose to Miami at home on Wednesday. 20. “I don’t have anything I used to have right now and I know I will at one point, but it’s just a process that I gotta really be patient with myself,” Thomas said. “Set small goals to reach, because coming back I just want it all right now. It’s just not realistic for anybody that’s been out as long as I have.”
3 years ago via ESPN

A source told ESPN that Thomas would be held to 8-to-12 minutes in his debut. “I know it’s going to take time at first and we got to go through the steps of going out there and playing in the game and figuring those things out but once I get comfortable then all the restrictions got to be off soon,” Thomas said.

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August 3, 2020 | 3:32 pm EDT Update
“Zion is not on their injury report,” said Brian Windhorst on his podcast. “They are treating him as though he’s coming back from an injury, but he’s not on their injury report. I cannot make an assumption as to what’s going on there. When you watch him play, he clearly is not in condition to compete at the highest level. As I’ve watched him play two games, I don’t actually think they should have played him at all with the way he’s playing. I talked to a scout who said to me he shouldn’t be out there right now with the condition he is in. He said to me, ‘He’s moving worse than he did in Summer League last summer when he got hurt in his first or second game.’ “I don’t know if that’s because he’s out of condition, or that’s because he’s got something that they’re not discussing. This is one of the things that the Pelicans have to deal with… this is a guy who has a history of knee injuries and is not right either because of conditioning or because of something else.”
Williamson was gone from the Pelicans for over a week and then was under quarantine for a few days when he returned to Orlando. “He does not look right,” said Kirk Goldsberry. “It does not look good. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say he shouldn’t be out there because I don’t know… Something smells fishy here. I don’t know what’s going on. He does not look like the kid that was dominating the league in March.”
Now that the Wizards have lost their first two games at Disney World, that rule is coming back into the forefront. The Wizards are currently tied in the loss column with the Hornets, who aren’t in Orlando but are locked in with the eighth-best lottery odds. What that means is if the Wizards continue to lose, they can’t gain more ping-pong balls for lottery night, which is set for Aug. 25. And now there is a distinct possibility they could have worse odds than a team with a better win percentage than them.
Storyline: Draft Lottery
It would be a cruel twist for the Wizards, who need as much help as they can get in this year’s draft as they hope to find another blue chip prospect to add to their burgeoning young core. Making that pick count is especially important given their salary cap situation with John Wall and Bradley Beal on the books, which has left them with fewer resources to work with. They could get another key rotation player on a rookie contract. The good news is that the lottery rules were changed more permanently before last year’s drawing in order to create more parity in the annual event. It smoothed out the odds to discourage tanking and the results in its first year were as-intended.
August 3, 2020 | 2:49 pm EDT Update
Zalgiris big man Jock Landale will be playing in a different team next season. With the request of the player, Jock Landale and Zalgiris have mutually agreed to part ways, as the Aussie continues to seek out his dream of playing in the NBA. A member of the Australian men’s national team signed a deal with Zalgiris last summer and had a running contract for next season. After the two sides reached an agreement, the 24-year-old addressed the fans and the Zalgiris organization. “I just wanted to reach out and say thank you for everything you’ve done for the past year. It was such an incredible experience coming to Lithuania and playing for such a historic club and a legendary coach. To the organization, I appreciate what you guys have done. Everyone’s got goals and ambitions, and you really helped me reach mine. You’ve got a fan in me for life.”
Storyline: Jock Landale Free Agency
August 3, 2020 | 2:11 pm EDT Update
August 3, 2020 | 12:55 pm EDT Update
While watching Sunday night’s box-office affair between the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks, perhaps the saying speaks more to the mental exercise of what it takes to play defense and get stops. “Heart and will,” James Harden said. “Everybody says we’re undersized — and they got a couple of offensive rebounds on us just cause they have 7-footers and whatnot — but you gotta just keep fighting, keep fighting. Once we get that ball, we’re out, so it just takes good spirit, fighting and making sure we’re communicating defensively and in our right positions.”
Westbrook finished with 31 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but it’s more important to note how he kept Houston afloat while Harden sat with foul trouble. He constantly put pressure on the Bucks’ defense, forcing them to concede open shots to Green, Tucker, Ben McLemore, and others. In addition, it seemed like him and Harden struck a good balance of when to attack versus when to move the ball and look for others. When Harden struggles offensively, Westbrook is more than capable of picking up the slack. “Yeah, I think we’re comfortable now,” Harden said of the pair’s chemistry. “I think with that training camp, we’re in a good place. We found ourselves.”
Storyline: Harden-Westbrook Dynamic
“We loaded up,” House explained. “We talked. The most important thing was to stop him before he got downhill, of course. We did a good job about locating him before he could get the ball or even after he got the ball to make sure that we were on the help side and that guys were already communicating with one another. That’s been a big help and a big factor for us — communication on defense. So we don’t have those “my bad” moments.” “Very important,” Harden added on their late-game defense. “I think throughout the course of the game we played some really good defense. Obviously, they’re a really good offensive team, but throughout the course of the game we got stops when we needed to.”
Jonathan Isaac suffered a torn ACL on Sunday night and will be out for the remainder of the season, and the injury came at a time when the Orlando Magic star was gaining tremendous popularity. Isaac’s jersey sales have skyrocketed recently, with only LeBron James having a hotter-selling jersey. The increase in sales was likely a response to Isaac refusing to kneel during the national anthem recently.
August 3, 2020 | 11:16 am EDT Update

August 3, 2020 | 9:07 am EDT Update
T.J. Warren? Really nice player, an amazing acquisition from the clueless Phoenix Suns, who gave him away for “cash considerations,” but you could have gotten a trillion-to-1 odds on Warren going for 50-plus on the very first regular-season game in the bubble. Or in any game. Anywhere. “We fed the dragon,” Oladipo said, smiling. “A guy that hot, you try to get him the ball, and I thought all our guys were trying to do that,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “T.J. was as hot as I’ve ever seen him. And I thought his teammates did a good job of sacrificing, of screening and getting him the ball and giving him proper spacing. You’ve got to milk him. I thought our point guards (Aaron Holiday and T.J. McConnell), they combined for 18 assists, we had 44 assists in the game, so our ball movement was good, and a lot of that was ending up in T.J.’s hands.”
Even if he remained almost 1,500 miles away, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum sensed he was not too far from family. His son, Deuce, joined the virtual fan section and became giddy after seeing his dad on the screen in uniform for Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers. “He’s a fan favorite,” Tatum said. “I was happy he was able to watch the game.” Deuce saw his old man help the Celtics to a 128-124 win over the Trail Blazers by scoring 34 points on 11-of-22 shooting. He also saw Tatum have a bounce-back game coincidentally after getting a haircut here on the NBA Disney campus.

JJ Redick starting podcast company

Now, Redick hopes to expand his platform. In a telephone interview, he said he was set to start his podcast company, ThreeFourTwo Productions, this week with his co-host and business partner, Tommy Alter, along with a new weekly podcast, “The Old Man and the Three,” which ticks the obligatory podcast box of having a pun in its title. “It’s a little play on Hemingway,” Redick said. “I’m the old man in this scenario.”
August 3, 2020 | 2:32 am EDT Update
After Isaac’s injury in early January, Magic officials expected Isaac to miss the remainder of the season and the playoffs, but the pandemic gave him extra time to rehabilitate and strengthen his leg. When players were allowed to return to the Magic practice facility in mid-May for optional individual workouts, Isaac often worked twice a day with team performance staff and medical staff. The current Magic front office has a reputation for being ultra-cautious with the health of its players, especially its younger players. But questions now will be raised whether Isaac was allowed to return too quickly.
Isaac, a 22-year-old forward and potential franchise cornerstone, crumpled to the court and clutched his knee as Magic head athletic trainer Ernest Eugene and athletic trainer and manual therapist Aki Tajima attended to him. A pained expression crossed Evan Fournier’s face. Wes Iwundu looked to the ground, his hands cupped to his face. Fultz prayed. “That was tough, man,” said Aaron Gordon, another of Isaac’s teammates. “That one brought me to tears instantly just because I know how good of a guy J.I. is and I know how hard he works and how hard he has worked to get back.”
“It was very difficult to see him go down like that again, especially the same knee,” said Nikola Vucevic, who saw the injury occur from the Magic bench area. “He was looking great, actually. We were all very happy for him mainly just because he’s a great guy and great teammate. We all have a lot of respect for him, and so for him to go down like that was very difficult to see, especially when you know that he had just came back.”
Storyline: Jonathan Isaac Injury

Mavs make playoffs despite loss

The Dallas Mavericks weren’t in the mood to celebrate the end of the franchise’s three-year playoff drought. The Mavs officially clinched a playoff berth due to the Memphis Grizzlies’ 108-106 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon. Hours later, Dallas dropped to 0-2 in the NBA bubble with a 117-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. “Our goal was to make the playoffs, and we achieved that, but for me and for us, we’re going to try to win every game now that we have left in the regular season,” said Mavs center Kristaps Porzingis, who scored 30 points in the loss. “Then, we’ll see where we end up in the playoffs and go from there. This is not a sprint. This is a marathon, and with each day, with each game, with each practice, we want to be a better team and better individually.”