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.
7 months 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.
1 year 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.”
2 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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January 20, 2020 | 5:00 pm UTC Update
Glushon and Ainge spent the weekend negotiating. On Oct. 21, they announced they had agreed to a four-year, $115 million extension. “That was a unanimous decision,” Stevens says. “What Jaylen has done, as a young player in the role he’s been in, on the winning team he’s been on, there are not a lot of comparables. We want him to be here for a long time.” It was the first rookie-scale extension the Celtics had handed out since signing Rajon Rondo to one back in 2009. “That meant a lot,” Brown says. He adds, however, that signing the deal “definitely wasn’t the easiest decision. It wasn’t as easy as people think. I had a lot of inner battles.” Again, he doesn’t want to reveal too much. Only that: “Anytime you make a decision that affects your future, you gotta do your due diligence. This is the only time as a player I have this ability to think about myself. But ultimately I made the right decision.”
Even though he’s posting career-best numbers and is in the midst of establishing individual records, Terry Rozier isn’t about to proclaim he’s arrived. Far from it in fact. “I feel like I ain’t proved s— yet and it’s not to the doubters,” Rozier said. “I give a damn what they say. It’s more to my loved ones, to my family. People that look at me and I really know how much they care about me. Those are the ones that I really want to show what I can do. And like I said, I haven’t showed them nothing yet and I want to keep improving.”
Fein did not get a chance to sit down and chat with his new guard at the time but spoke highly of him, highlighting his leadership and his feel for the game. “His leadership,” Fein said of Chiozza’s greatest advantage. “He can control the game, control the tempo and has a great feel for the game. He is a big time competitor. He had a lot of success in college, a lot of success last year, and even this year in the G League. Someone on the defensive end who can get into people, make people uncomfortable, and run the team on the other side. I am looking forward to working with him.”
Martin believes his defense is the main area he will make an impact for Long Island … and maybe get some time with Brooklyn. The Nets two-way vows to bring his defensive energy to every game he plays in and will serve any role Shaun Fein and the coaching staff want him to fill. “I bring a little bit of everything, mainly defense,” Martin said. “I bring energy and I know I can bring that every game. Most of the time you know your shot is not going to be there every night but your defensive energy has to be there. I feel like that’s one thing I can bring everyday. Just bringing that energy, bringing that defense, and let the offense follow.” “Bringing whatever the team wants me to do, whether it is on the defensive end or the offensive end and rack up as many wins as we can.”
Who would you say you are the tightest with on the team? Terry Rozier: I’m cool with everybody. I’ve always been like that. Even last year, like I’m cool with the guy that even is the most non-cultured on the team. I’m cool with Willy (Hernangomez), I’m cool with Malik (Monk). I would probably say those two the most. Billy and ‘Lik. Just their everyday spirit. Malik is kind of different. He’s real chill, funny, will say whatever comes to mind. Willy is annoying, but funny at the same time. He likes to have fun with it, a good guy. So he reminds me a lot of Daniel Theis. a guy I’ve been around and you just see that click.
But in late September last year, he decided it was time for a change. He’d recently returned from a trip to China, where he had suited up in the FIBA World Cup for Team USA. He was excited for the tournament. The previous season had worn him down, and he was giddy about the opportunity to rack up some successes, to remember what it felt like to have fun on the court. “I wanted to win that so badly,” he says. “It would have been good for me.” Brown played well, but the team did not, losing twice and failing to qualify for the medal round. “I was devastated,” Brown says. He spent the night after the first defeat to France awake in his hotel room, replaying the game in his head.
“I’m not sure. Right now, (the Timberwolves are) struggling a little bit so we have to get back and (we’re) trying get in a playoff run,” Wiggins said. “That’s my main goal right now. And after that I’m going to decide on Canada basketball. “I never really got a chance to talk to too (many) of the guys, you know. I have great respect for coach (Nick) Nurse and I plan on having a conversation with him eventually.”
Nurse, the Raptors coach who also leads the Canadian team, said he had talked a bit to Wiggins about the possibility of playing and expected a decision shortly. “We’re trying to get all the … best players in, all the best Canadian guys, and it looks pretty good,” Nurse said. “Most of them are already on board and excited about playing. It’s a heck of an opportunity. It’s a chance to go to the Olympics, and you get to play the qualifier in your home country.”
Harris is part of Hoops2O Hoops, aka “The Water Boys,” founded by professional athletes many of whose roots go back to the University of Virginia, Harris’ alma mater. Malcolm Brogdon, the Pacers point guard, initiated the program along with former NFL defensive end Chris Long, a two-time Super Bowl champ. Long put together a video on the group’s mission… “Malcolm is very passionate about it. He had spent some time in Africa growing up,” Harris told the Nets’ Tom Dowd. “He had seen the need for clean drinking water and it had a pretty profound impact on him. He talked to Justin and I about it. Originally, he threw the idea out to Chris. And then one thing led to another.”
The expanded group includes Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Milwaukee’s Donte DiVincenzo, Detroit’s Tim Frazier, and two more recent Virginia players, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter. They’ve even recruited their college coach, Tony Bennett, as the Hoops2o Head Coach. Through social media and initiatives and in-person events like a meet-and-greet Harris and Temple did earlier this year, they generate contributions toward the goal. “Each guy they have a goal where they, to build a well, it costs $45,000 and each guy their fund-raising goal is 45K,” said Harris. “Everybody sets out to raise 45 individually, and then you get five wells. We raised over a quarter of a million dollars last year. You hold different fundraisers, different events just to help raise money and awareness, and then we all contribute ourselves as well.”
January 20, 2020 | 2:48 pm UTC Update
As one of the returnees on a team with eight newcomers, Kurucs was passed on the depth chart by multiple players until he recently found his stride. After such a promising rookie season in which he averaged 8.9 points per game on 45 percent shooting, Kurucs is averaging 4.3 points on 46 percent shooting this year. He still has the second-half of the year to prevent a sophomore slump, but given the Nets’ depth at forward and uncertainty surrounding his court case — he’s facing multiple domestic violence-related charges stemming from a September arrest — it’s hard not to wonder about his long-term future with the organization.
“I didn’t even know,” Mykhailiuk said Saturday night, after scoring a career high for a second straight game with 25 points in the Pistons’ 136-103 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. “I knew it was a business and sooner or later people get traded. It’s part of the business of the NBA. I was like, ‘Alright, I got to keep doing my thing, working hard and hopefully I’ll play in Detroit.’ ” He’s doing more than playing; he’s excelling.
Antetokounmpo, the overwhelming favorite to win MVP again, believes that line of thinking should be turned the other way, toward the team that is currently on pace to become the third team in NBA history to win 70 games. “I don’t think there’s a team in this league we cannot beat,” Antetokounmpo said. No Eastern Conference team has recorded back-to-back 60-win seasons since James’s Cleveland Cavaliers from 2008-2010. These Bucks bear some resemblance to those Cavaliers.
Milwaukee also might not have the supporting cast that warrants a “SuperTeam” label, but the pieces around Antetokounmpo fit. What else matters? And, while they did blow a 2-0 lead against Toronto, they were a shot or two from being up 3-0 before losing in double overtime. Leonard really was on one. “We’re not worried about it at all. People can think whatever they want. We know what we have going on in this locker room. We know what we need to do and what we need to accomplish. We’re not too worried about any outside influences,” Middleton said, declining to make the above case.
Walker’s 29th try to defeat James comes Monday when his Boston Celtics host the Los Angeles Lakers in the first of two regular-season matchups — assuming that Walker returns after missing the Celtics’ previous game on Saturday with left knee soreness. In eight seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets, Walker stepped onto the court against James 24 times in the regular season and four times in the 2014 NBA playoffs, and never left the court with a win.
“I know he still thinks about it a little bit,” said Phoenix Suns center Frank Kaminsky, Walker’s teammate for four seasons with the Hornets, “and he wants to beat him.” The Hornets did have one win against James’ Cleveland Cavaliers when Kaminsky and Walker were teammates — a 106-97 victory in Charlotte on Feb. 3, 2016. But Walker was sidelined by a sore left knee and replaced by Jeremy Lin, who scored 24 in the win.
Steve Clarke, who lives in Norway, first visited the museum by himself while his son was practicing at the FedExForum on Dec. 14. But after going on the tour, he was excited to tell his son about his trip and suggested Brandon attend when he had the time. “I said, ‘This museum is around the people you are around every single day, and it’s part of you as well,’ ” said Steve Clarke. “ ‘Although I am not African American, I am of Jamaican descent, so that is the same thing. They paved for you to get here, otherwise it would not have worked out for me or you.’ ”
The Clarkes spent nearly two hours at the museum. The Grizzlies forward said the exhibit on slavery touched him the most. His father added Clarke was stunned about how poorly African Americans were treated and made a point to talk to his son about the importance of freedom. “He stayed for everything. Watched everything and listened to everything. I was really happy to see that he was interested to see that,” Steve Clarke said. “I felt good about it. I didn’t know if he really wanted to see anything like that. That is not something we really talk about on a regular basis.”
“All these other idiots who don’t play basketball and never played basketball, when they say you wanna judge a guy’s greatness by number of championships … they’re idiots.” It’s safe to say Robert Horry is fed up with NBA fans using rings instead of common sense in debates … telling TMZ Sports titles don’t mean a damn thing when talkin’ G.O.A.T.s. “Here’s the thing that people are so stupid about. They measure great players by how many championships they win. It’s the stupidest thing,” Big Shot Bob told us at the California Strong charity softball game on Sunday.
January 20, 2020 | 12:46 pm UTC Update
“Thankful, most of all,” Carter says of the treatment. “And I say that because I was an opponent for 22 years for most of these teams and obviously these are great organizations that are class acts and for them to do that is great. “I just enjoy playing the game regardless of being an opponent of these different organizations … regardless, it’s a brotherhood, it’s a small community and it makes for an emotional roller coaster.”
And he will hearken back to those glory days of the early 2000s and that special night in Oakland he got to witness in person. “I tell you what, I was thankful that I was able to be there and see those guys win. I remember sitting next to Tracy (McGrady) and thinking, ‘Do you believe what’s about to happen?’ There was like two minutes left, and it was like, ‘Dude, this is unreal.’
“It’s different, but I prefer my people on the East Coast,” Bradley said. “Some people might be offended by that, but I mean, especially knowing I’m from the West Coast. I don’t know if it’s because it’s home for me or what, but I just feel like people are real good friends. That’s all it is. I could go years without talking to someone in Boston but [when] I see them, it’s a real friendship. People are honest, that’s the culture. East Coast, but specifically Boston. People are just good people.”
Even if he does decide to play, he may make his signal behind the scenes in the coming weeks and let the world know when he arrives at training camp. For now, Wiggins is keeping his cards close to his chest. “I’m not sure [about the summer],” he said Saturday after recording his first career triple-double in a Timberwolves loss to the Toronto Raptors. “Right now my team is struggling a little bit [they were five games out of the 8th seed in the West as of Sunday] so we have to get back and try to get in a playoff run. That’s my main goal right now. And after that I’m going to decide on Canada Basketball.”

January 20, 2020 | 1:29 am UTC Update
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January 19, 2020 | 10:08 pm UTC Update