Thomas' career-best assist performance shows he can do more than score

Thomas' career-best assist performance shows he can do more than score

BOSTON – On more than one possession, you could see Isaiah Thomas dart into the lane only to disappear in a sea of arms, legs and really long torsos.
And seemingly out of nowhere, the ball would emerge into the hands of one of Thomas’ Celtics teammates who was in position for a wide open shot that more often than not, they made on Tuesday against Utah.
Boston’s 115-104 win over the Jazz was a game highlighted by Thomas’ game-high 29 points. But just as impressive was his career-high 15 assists, many of which came with Thomas not even seeing who the target was or whether the pass even made it there.
“I really do think IT (Thomas) has eyes in the back of his head,” Jaylen Brown told reporters after Tuesday’s win. “I think he can actually see behind him. Sometimes he’s in the paint with all the trees, and he just whips it out to the three-point line. It’s like how’d he see that? I think he has eyes behind his head, behind his headband.”
Thomas acknowledged that there are times when he’ll make a pass and not see exactly where it’s going or who is the recipient.
“You have to trust where your guys are going to be,” Thomas said. “That’s being familiar with the guys that you play with. But most of the time, guys are in the right spots. When I can’t see I try to throw it to the rim. I know Jae is going to be on my right side so I can always throw back-right. It’s just being familiar with your players and knowing where they’re going to be.”
Part of Thomas’ growth as a player is recognizing how to get teammates more involved. During his career high 52-point performance against Miami on Dec. 30, Thomas did not tally a single assist.
But he was clearly in more giving mood on Tuesday despite seeing a slew of defenders all game long against the Jazz.

“I don’t know how much more attention he can attract, I mean, because he’s been doing it here for two years,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s been a huge focal point and people have blitzed him and switched him and done pretty much everything you can do.  But he’s always going to attract everybody’s best effort; that’s for sure.  And he’s a heck of a tough shot maker; he made tough shots (against Utah). And I thought we had some timely shots that kind of stemmed the tide as they were coming back, I mean he hit a three on a pull-up to make it 11 or 13 at one point when they were starting to build some momentum and those are really helpful shots, obviously.”
Said Thomas: “They give you a lot of attention, then you have to take what they give you and find the open man. They can’t take away everything. If they try … I have to find other ways to be an impact on the game.”
In addition to bolstering his own numbers and helping the Celtics win, it also helps out his teammates.
“It’s great for me,” said Brown. “He’s got so much attention on him. All I have to do is finish. He makes the game easier for me; he makes the game easier for everybody else.”

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

With Kyrie Irving undergoing a “minimally invasive procedure” on Saturday, the Boston Celtics may look to add a player via the “hardship roster exception” that only teams that are significantly impacted by injuries, are eligible for. 

MORE - Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

The Celtics won’t have a clear sense of what the timetable will be for Irving’s return until after his procedure is performed. 

But it’s likely to be at least a couple weeks which at the earliest would put Irving’s return just before the playoffs. 

In order to qualify for the NBA’s hardship roster exception, at least four players must miss a minimum of three consecutive games, and later be deemed to be out for an additional two weeks. 

Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) are out for the season, and Marcus Smart (right thumb) recently underwent surgery that will keep him sidelined for at least another five weeks. 

An independent doctor will determine if the extent of the aforementioned injuries as well as the recovery time for Irving, meet the two-week criteria to be eligible for the hardship roster exception. 

Once that’s determined, Boston will be given a hardship roster exception to use on a player for the remainder of the regular season but won’t be eligible for the postseason. 

If Boston does add a player, look for him to come from the Gatorade League, possibly their G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. 

Boston has a collection of guards who have helped fill the void left by Irving’s absence, but Boston has not been able to address the loss of Daniel Theis. 

Keep an eye on former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 16.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Red Claws this season. 

MORE - Hayward gives update on rehab

Boston has a 45-day cap on the use of its two-way players with the parent team, but that limitation ends tomorrow which means guard/forward Jabari Bird and guard Kadeem Allen can earn the league minimum for every day they are with the Celtics going forward in the regular season. That can provide some depth to a Celtics team that because of injuries, can use every healthy body they can find.


Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Kyrie Irving could be back on the court in time for the Celtics to begin the playoffs.

Or not.

Irving will have what the Celts are describing as a "minimally invasive procedure" on his injured left knee Saturday. NBC Sports Boston talked to Dr. Christopher Chihlas from Southcoast Health -- who has not examined Irving but is familiar with his type of injury -- about how long Irving may be sidelined.

"A minimally invasive procedure is basically an arthroscopy," said Dr. Chihlas. "His return to play is mostly dependent on what is done . . . If it's just a cleanout, as we're being told, then -- best-case scenario -- we could see him back playing in three to four weeks."

But, he added, "it could be double that . . . depending upon what exactly is found . . . 

"The key here is the patella fracture (which Irving suffered during the 2015 playoffs). My feeling is that he's suffering a bit of the consequence of the patella fracture, which is a fracture into the knee joint . . . [He] may need to have this done periodically to get him through the rest of his career."