Grizzlies coach Fizdale on defending Thomas: 'Gonna throw the kitchen sink at him'

Grizzlies coach Fizdale on defending Thomas: 'Gonna throw the kitchen sink at him'

BOSTON – When Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas found out he was named Eastern Conference Player of the week, he was with his family ice skating.

It was a fitting place for the 5-foot-9 guard to be considering how easily he has been gliding past opposing defenses this season.

One of those teams was the Memphis Grizzlies who have been the league’s top defensive club most of this season.

You would not have known that by the way Thomas had his way during Boston’s 112-109 overtime win on Dec. 20, a night in which Thomas scored a career-high 44 points – the kind of performance he would love to replicate when the Celtics host the Grizzlies tonight at the TD Garden.

Grizzlies coach David Fizdale acknowledged prior to the game that limiting Thomas is not an easy feat.

“You got any suggestions? Tackle him,” quipped Fizdale. “He’s one of the most dynamic offensive players in this league. He carries a big chip with him. I don’t see size at all when it comes to him. He plays a lot bigger than he is. I truly consider him a great player.”

And to stop him, it’ll take the league’s top defensive team to make him their number one priority on a level that they’re just not used to doing because for the most part, they play exceptional team defense.

“Once he starting hitting that 3-ball, that’s when it started to go downhill for us (last week),” Fizdale said. “We have to throw some different looks at him this time. We gotta impact him with different people guarding him. And maybe throw some traps at him, stuff like that.”

Fizdale was asked if ex-Celtic Tony Allen will see some time defending Thomas tonight.  

“Heck yeah. You kidding me?” Fizdale said. “I might put (7-foot center) Marc Gasol on Isaiah tonight. We’re gonna throw the kitchen sink at him and hopefully that’ll slow his butt down a little bit.”

Thomas, whose 27.0 points per game average ranks seventh in the NBA, has seen a slew of different defensive looks this season. It will be interesting to see if Fizdale tries to put Allen, a five-time member of the NBA’s all-Defensive First or Second team, on Thomas exclusively.

“He’s a great defender,” Thomas said of Allen. “One of the most respected defensive players there is. But I have a job to do and not one man is going to stop me from doing that.”

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

© 2018 by The Associated Press