Celtics

Thomas: When free agency comes, 'I’m going to get what I deserve'

Thomas: When free agency comes, 'I’m going to get what I deserve'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Isaiah Thomas has spent his entire basketball career answering questions about his game and whether a 5-foot-9 guard could play let alone thrive in the NBA.

With each twist, turn and unexpected setback he has faced, Thomas has consistently responded with an emphatic showing that left little doubt in anyone’s mind that he is up to the challenge, any challenge, that’s put before him.

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The summer of 2018 was supposed to be when all his hard work, those long hours in the gym honing his shooting touch, would lead to a major payday for this free agent-to-be.

But a hip injury last season that has yet to fully heal and has created some concern as to whether he’ll return to the court and play at a comparable level we saw last season with the Celtics.

His size and ability have at times been questioned.

But his health?

This is a new one.

“It’s been a little difficult but at the same time, I’m here to control what I can control,” Thomas said. “I can’t do anything other than that.”

Thomas, who finished fifth in the league’s MVP race after averaging 28.9 points per game last game which ranked third in the NBA and tops in the East, has put together the kind of resume that injury or not, would make him a lock to get a fat payday next summer from some team.

There is little doubt that a double-standard exists for players like Thomas who at 5-9, doesn’t look the part of a superstar even though his play and his numbers and impact on winning, suggest otherwise.

Chandler Parsons is a solid NBA player but not nearly as decorated in terms of accolades or accomplishments as Isaiah Thomas.

And yet despite an injury-riddled career, the 6-10 Parsons has still managed to rank among the highest paid players in the NBA.

Following the 2015-2016 season in Dallas, Parsons opted out of the final year of his contract with the Mavericks – worth $16 million - despite missing the end of the season and the playoffs with a meniscus tear which was the latest setback in a career that has been marred with knee injuries.

That didn’t prevent the Memphis Grizzlies from signing him in 2016 to a four-year, $94 million contract.

His first season in Memphis featured career lows in just about every statistical category, including games played (34) as this season, like the previous two, was cut short because of a knee injury.

As good as Thomas has been, him getting that Brinks truck-like payday will hinge heavily on how quickly he returns to the floor and how well he performs while proving the hip is a non-issue.

“When that time comes, free agency comes, I’m going to get what I deserve, get what I earned,” said Thomas, who later told CSNNE.com that he’s in the process of finding a new agent. “That’s just what it is and we’re going to go from there.

Thomas added, “until then I’m going to do whatever I can to get back on the floor healthy and then hopefully be in the (NBA) Finals next year and win a championship.”

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Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said, “you have to love challenges.”

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