Thomas' world turned upside down in one short year

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Thomas' world turned upside down in one short year

WASHINGTON -- It was less than a year ago that Isaiah Thomas was the darling of the NBA, the undersized scoring machine who fought through the kind of emotional pain and adversity you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. 
Then came the hip injury that would sideline him for the start of this season, followed by an unexpected trade to Cleveland that clearly left the ex-Celtic with a bitter taste in his mouth. 


That was followed by a slow start with the Cavs upon his return, which led to some straight-no-chaser comments by Thomas about the team’s fight, which -- as you can imagine -- did not go over well with teammates, Cleveland fans or the media. 

And that brings us to Thomas once again being on the move. 
According to ESPN, Cleveland has traded the two-time All-Star along with Channing Frye, to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. The Cavs also threw in a protected 2018 first-round pick to seal the deal. 

Thomas would be the first of many players on the move from Cleveland, with the Cavs reportedly also trading away Dwyane Wade (to Miami) along with Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose (both to Utah).

There will be plenty of reports on what the Thomas deal means to the Cavs roster (they get younger) as well as the Lakers (more salary cap space in the summer by adding two expiring contracts).
But I’m most concerned about what this does for Thomas, a player that will always have a special place in the heart of Celtics fans for how he performed in his two-plus years in Boston. 
While it’s true that the whole video tribute thing rubbed some folks the wrong way around here, that doesn’t diminish what Thomas did for the organization when he was a Celtic. 
But history has little value in this day and age of the NBA. 


Thomas goes to Los Angeles just a few months away from hitting free agency, a time when it seemed a given that the 5-foot-9 guard was going to indeed get that Brinks truck that he talks about from time to time, to show up well stocked. 
About that . . . 
Thomas will get a bump in pay for sure, but it’s probably not going to be as substantial as he would want. 
In Cleveland, Thomas had a chance to re-assert himself as an elite scorer who could contribute significantly to winning games. 
But as the Cavs struggled before and after his return, Thomas’ impact on winning was brought into question. 

Some of his comments were taken as jabs against his teammates, the coaching staff and the organization as a whole which bothered many considering his numbers offensively weren't great and some of his defensive numbers ranked among the worst all-time. 
And now that he’s with the Lakers, who are more concerned with salary cap flexibility and youth development, Thomas will have a much harder time this offseason getting the kind of deal he feels his hard work and steady improvement warrant. 
Which is too bad, because the way he was able to play at the highest of levels dealing with the untimely death of his younger sister, made everyone around the league for a time Isaiah Thomas fans. 


It had all the trappings of a feel-good, made-for-the-big-screen production. 
But looking at how quickly things went south in Cleveland, and how unpredictable things look on the horizon with the Lakers, it’s hard to imagine that this story is going to have a happy ending for Thomas. 



Celtics history shows a strong second half is coming

Celtics history shows a strong second half is coming

LOS ANGELES – Dropping three in a row and four of five right before the All-Star break, it’s clear the Celtics did not hit the break playing their best basketball.

But they’re not hitting the panic button either, and for good reason.

As disappointing as they may have been leading up to the All-Star break, the Celtics (40-19) still have the second-best record in the East, which is exactly where they were a year ago this time heading out of the break.

And if recent history is any indicator of the future, you can count on the Celtics putting together a surge after the break that, at worst, will keep them close to where they are in the standings.

Now in his fifth season as the Celtics’ coach, Brad Stevens has won at least 16 regular-season games after the break each of the past three seasons.

And that success helped propel Boston to a playoff berth each season and the Celtics’ postseason seeding improving from one year to the next.

After having had the best record in the East for most of this season, the Celtics are once again counting on a strong finish.

It’s one thing for the Celtics to tout their confidence in getting back on track.

But that belief is shared by others as well.

“They're a very good team,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green. “They're young, this is their first year together. Obviously, Kyrie [Irving] is one of the few guys, if not the only guy, with championship experience. So, it takes a little experience to kind of figure things out.”

Boston is banking on Green’s theory panning out, a theory that will be put to the test considering the Celtics made no moves at the trade deadline other than to sign center Greg Monroe after he agreed to a buyout with the Phoenix Suns.

The talk of the league the past couple of weeks has been Cleveland. The Cavs (34-22, third in the East) engineered three trades that radically changed their roster and the likely trajectory of their season.

“It's been a small sample size so far. But just getting some new energy into the locker room and seeing how those guys play out there has been great,” said Cavs forward Kevin Love. “George Hill has stepped into the starting lineup right away; been super solid for us. Rodney Hood gives us a lefty with a lot of game. Kind of has a quiet confidence about him. Larry Nance is a double-double threat every night. He's a guy with a number of teams playing smaller basketball or position-less basketball in the league. He's a guy that can switch on to multiple positions.

Love added: “Jordan Clarkson is a selfless player and kind of has that swagger about him where he doesn't care if he starts, comes off the bench. He can go out there and give you 20 points and help our bench. I believe in our first two games with those guys, we scored over 50 off the bench in both games against two very good teams. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens because we feel like if we get a couple months under our belt playing together. We could be tough.”

The same is true of the Toronto Raptors, who came into the break with the best record in the Eastern Conference, a first for that franchise.

As well as the Raptors (41-16) have played, their coach, Dwane Casey, hesitates to do too much patting on the back right now.

When asked if his team was the best in the East, he replied, “I don't know. The record says we are, but for me to sit here and say we are the best team...we have confidence, but I'm not going to sit here and say we are the best team. Right now, we're number one. The numbers say that.”

The numbers also indicate that the Washington Wizards are another team that’s on the rise these days. They've won seven of their past nine leading up to the break to re-enter the conversation as one of the East’s top teams.

“It’s crazy. It’s wide open,” said Washington’s Bradley Beal. “We’re all right there, neck-and-neck. Everybody is going to continue to get better. Everyone has 24, 25 games left. They’re going to fly by. It’s definitely going to come down to the playoffs. Anybody can take it.”

And the Celtics will remain among the leaders of that pack, even as they come out of the break struggling to win games.

Green believes more than anything, the Celtics are still figuring out how to handle being a team that’s targeted every night as one of the biggest games on the opposing team’s schedule.

“I think they went from going into the season with Kyrie and Gordon [Hayward] and Al [Horford] kind of expecting to be really good,” Green said. “With young guys like Jaylen [Brown], Jayson Tatum, expected to be really good. Then Gordon went down and then there were no expectations for them. And they completely outplayed that.

Green added, “So, then it's a different thing. Now, all of a sudden everyone is gunning for you and that takes some adjusting to. So, I think they're just adjusting to it, but they'll be fine. Everyone hits that rough patch in the season. I think it's just that's what they're going through right now.”



ESPN player poll: Celtics give best free agency pitch

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ESPN player poll: Celtics give best free agency pitch

The Boston Celtics have massively changed their reputation around the NBA.

Once known as a team which can't land marquee free agents, the Celtics have landed Al Horford and Gordon Hayward in consecutive seasons. That seems to support an ESPN poll, which ranks the Celtics as the top recruiting team in the NBA.

Here's what ESPN.com wrote on the poll where they quizzed 48 anonymous players.

Which team have you heard makes the best free-agent pitches?

Celtics: 27 percent
Heat: 15 percent
Lakers: 12 percent
Warriors: 9 percent
Other: 37 percent
Others gaining votes: Clippers, Grizzlies, Hornets, Knicks, Mavericks, Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, Wizards


The Celtics prepared a thorough pitch for Kevin Duran before he joined the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 offseason. The pitch included an appearance from Tom Brady. While Durant didn't pick Boston, he praised the team.

"I met with them and they were really good, and I was really impressed by it," Durant said in Nov. 2016, via ESPN.

He wasn't the only one who appreciated the Celtics' pitches.

"Boston [has the best]. If you bring Tom Brady? That's pretty damn cool," an Eastern Conference guard told ESPN.