Kobe Bryant helping Isaiah Thomas study playoff film

Kobe Bryant helping Isaiah Thomas study playoff film

WASHINGTON – For so many years, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were Public Enemy Number one to the Boston Celtics. 

Now the Celtics still have no love for the Lakers, but they just might be warming up to Bryant who has been helping Celtics star Isaiah Thomas prepare for the last six playoff games for Boston – all wins. 

“We’ve been in communication the last couple of weeks, ever since my sister (Chyna Thomas) passed,” Thomas said. “He’s been a big help since Game 2 (of the Chicago Bulls series). We actually watched film.”

Listening to Thomas describe their conversations, it had the feel of the Karate Kid with Mr. Miyagi (Bryant) and Daniel-san (Thomas). 

“He was going over my film with me, and teaching me things he looks at when he watches film,” Thomas said. “That’s probably been a big help for me.”

Oh yeah. 

In the first two games of the Chicago Bulls series, both losses for the Celtics, Thomas averaged 26.5 points, 4.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 turnovers while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent on 3’s. The last six games have led to a significant shift in Thomas’ impact on games. In that span he’s averaging 28.5 points, 6.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds with 2.5 turnovers while shooting 49.6 percent from the field.

Thomas added that he and Bryant have been texting before and after every game. 

“He’s definitely helped,” Thomas said. “Tells me what he sees and what I should be watching for on film.”

When asked what Bryant looks for on film, Thomas, smiling, said “nah. I’m not gonna say.”

Thomas added, “mentally he’s on a different level than anybody I’ve ever met.”

The two-time all-star recalled a recent conversation with Thomas that lasted about 30 minutes. 

“I emailed him my film and he watched every second of it, telling me what times to go to, and what to look at and certain things I didn’t look at when I watched film,” Thomas said. “Like I said, mentally you can tell he’s one of the greatest ever.”

Thomas added, “he made me figure out a lot of things. He’s been a very helping hand when it comes to the film and figuring out what to do the next day.”

And yes, both players are fully aware of the irony of a former Laker helping a current Celtic to elevate his game. 

“He’s just trying to help out,” Thomas said. “That’s probably the craziest thing to happen to me. I was home in Washington I was on the phone and my mom kept saying, ‘who are you talking to?’ I had to put it on mute and tell her, ‘It’s Kobe.’”

Bryant has even given Thomas a nickname – the Mighty I.T. – which is part of Bryant’s web series which focuses on different NBA players. 

“Any nickname he gives me, I’m going to take,” Thomas said.

This is just the latest ‘Did that really happen?’ moment for Isaiah Thomas who has become the one NBA player so many of the game’s all-time greats, like Michael Jordan and now Bryant, love.

“It doesn’t seem real, for Kevin Garnett to leave me a voice mail, things like that, things you don’t ever dream of,” Thomas said. “Get done with a game and see a text message from Kobe, Tom Brady, Floyd (Mayweather Jr.), all those type of guys I’m trying to follow in their footsteps. I’m trying to keep going as a basketball player and as a person.”

Irving, Brown out again for Celtics tonight vs. Thunder

Irving, Brown out again for Celtics tonight vs. Thunder

BOSTON – The injury report remains the same for the Celtics who will enter tonight’s game against Oklahoma City with a roster that remains shorthanded.

In addition to Gordon Hayward (left ankle) who has been out all season, joining him on the inactive list tonight are Jaylen Brown (NBA concussion protocol); Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness); Marcus Smart (right thumb sprain) and Daniel Theis (out for season after left knee meniscal tear surgery).

Only Irving and Brown are expected to return in the near future. Theis has his season-ending surgery last week, the Celtics continue to insist Hayward won't play this season and Smart has a shot at returning at some point in the playoffs as early as the latter stages of the first round or early in the second.


Celtics-Thunder preview: Balancing rest and rhythm

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Celtics-Thunder preview: Balancing rest and rhythm

BOSTON – With the NBA playoffs looming, this is a tricky time of year for most of the league’s playoff-bound teams. 

Both players and coaches want to head into the postseason well-rested. 

But they also want to be in a good playing rhythm.

MORE - OKC not taking shorthanded C's for granted

Injuries have forced the Boston Celtics to sit some players who are likely to be able to play (and well-rested) when the playoffs. 

And tonight’s foe, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are in a similar situation as well. 

“It's something you're walking a tightrope on all the time, where a guy is really rested but you've taken him out of rhythm,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “The biggest thing is, there's gotta be communication between the players and the medical staff, coaches, of where guys are, what they need.

Donovan added, “I think rest this time of year would help any player, but there's a balance between maybe getting too much rest and maybe getting out of rhythm. The players are always walking that line during the course of the year, because you kind of get into a rhythm of playing every other day, you get into that, and then there's a back to back here or there, and you get three games in four nights, but yeah. You try to best as you can with your players, help them balance that the best they can.”

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook can see how some players might need to strike a balance between getting enough rest late in the season while maintaining a good playing rhythm.  

So, I asked him which is his preference?

“I prefer to play,” he said. “Rhythm and all that (expletive), it’s in your mind.”

For Westbrook, maybe so. 

But it is very real to a number of players in the NBA, among them being his teammate and fellow All-Star Paul George. 

“If you know why you’re in the gym and the work you’re getting, you lock in,” George said. “You prepare, get your work done. And you get off your legs, get off our feet and get your rest. It’s easy to balance the two when you know what exactly you’re doing and you know exactly what you need to do.”

Boston has worked to strike that balance with Kyrie Irving all season.

That’s why the five-time All-Star is averaging 24.4 points per game which is 11th in the league. However, he’s doing it in 32.2 minutes which ranks 55th in the league in minutes played per game. 

Lately, Irving has gotten more time off than he would like as he deals with a sore left knee that has kept him sidelined for the Celtics’ last three games. 

It doesn’t appear to be something that will limit him now.

However, having him sit out games now increases the likelihood that he’ll be ready to roll at or near full strength, when the playoffs arrive. 

Boston is also playing without Jaylen Brown who suffered a concussion when he fell on his back following a dunk at Houston on March 3. He is expected to return at some point between now and the end of the regular season which could be a blessing in disguise for the 6-foot-7 Brown who will be called upon to not only remain Boston’s next-best scoring option to Kyrie Irving, but also defend at a high level. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that they have given thought to how to find that happy medium between resting guys while ensuring as best they can, that players will be refreshed for the playoffs. 

“We haven’t been in that situation very often, where we choose to do rest except for that stretch in December when we rested Al (Horford),” Stevens said. “But everything else has kind of happened organically with guys being dinged up or whatever the case may be. I think that’s … we’ll probably be in a situation where we will continue to have those discussions.”