Isaiah Thomas

Once again, Danny Ainge proves he's not afraid to bet big on his own judgment

Once again, Danny Ainge proves he's not afraid to bet big on his own judgment

A few thoughts about the blockbuster Cleveland-Boston trade:

  • One thing I've always admired about Danny Ainge: He's got a lot of guts. He always has. He's totally unafraid. And in pulling the trigger on a trade with the team he's trying to beat in the NBA East, he's taking a gamble. In trading his team's best and most popular player he's making an even bigger gamble. And in taking on Kyrie Irving, well, he might be taking the biggest gamble of all. But he doesn't really care what anyone else thinks, he does what he thinks is right. It's the same as the trade he pulled off prior to the draft with the No. 1 pick. He thought Jayson Tatum was the best player in the draft and knew he didn't have to take him with the first pick, so he moved the pick. And he really didn't care what anybody else thought of the deal. The guy has had plenty of self-confidence and courage since the day he started playing basketball. I remember watching him as a high-school junior in the Oregon state basketball tournament and on the football field and marveling at how he laughed in the face of pressure. He seemed totally immune to it and probably still is.
  • In today's world, people running franchises who are willing to make a big gamble or controversial move without worrying about what fans or media will think about it are rare -- and usually worth their weight in gold.
  • Ainge has put a big burden on his coach, Brad Stevens. As well he should -- Stevens is one of the best in the business. But I think Stevens will need to be at the top of his game to find the kind of team chemistry the Celtics had last season. Irving, I've heard, is pretty tough to handle -- for his teammates and his coaches. Getting him to play the team game and keeping him out of calling his own number all the time might be a problem.
  • This deal has long-term ramifications that should not be ignored. Irving is four years younger than Thomas (who is dealing with a hip injury) and in better health. Most people in the league believe LeBron James is headed out of Cleveland after this season and Boston has positioned itself to be the next big thing in the East. Thomas has one year left on his contract and Irving has two years and a player option for a third. Ainge is making a move that's possibly good for this season but definitely good for the seasons after that.
  • Thomas is 5-9 and often listed at 185 pounds. He doesn't look as if he's within 20 pounds of that number, however. Irving is 6-3 and 193. Players as small as Thomas have a pretty rough ride in the NBA -- and I'm not so sure how long he can keep that slight frame healthy enough to carry the heavy load he carried last season. I certainly wouldn't invest in that body with a long-term max deal.
  • Kevin Love and Thomas played on the same AAU team in high school and I'm sure they will play well together. Cleveland will be OK next season if Thomas stays healthy. Of course, behind him is Derrick Rose, another player whose continued good health is no sure thing.
  • I don't know what to think of Irving and his desire to get away from James. But I have a feeling that PLAYING with LeBron is OK, it's just existing with him that's a problem. You hear stories about the entourage, about LeBron basically running the whole organization -- stuff that can't be easy on teammates.
  • The Celtics have reshaped their team coming off what was a very good season. That takes guts. But that's Danny Ainge.

 

Trail Blazers lose 17-point lead, and game, as Boston gets revenge

Trail Blazers lose 17-point lead, and game, as Boston gets revenge

The Trail Blazers’ chance to move into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot was thwarted Thursday when the short-handed Boston Celtics overcame a 17-point halftime deficit and beat the Blazers 120-111 at the Moda Center.

Isaiah Thomas had 34 points and fill-in starters Marcus Smart (18 points) and Jaylen Brown (14 points, 7 rebounds) carried Boston (34-19) to its eighth win in nine games.

The Blazers (23-31) fell one game behind Denver (23-29) for the final playoff spot in the West despite a season-high 26 points from Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard’s 28 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Boston started the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 59-57 lead and complete their comeback from 17 down. The lead see-sawed for much of the third before Brown hit a corner three with 4.2 seconds left to give the Celtics a 77-76 lead heading into the fourth.

The Blazers were within 99-98 with 5:43 left after an Aminu three, but Boston pulled away, thanks in large part to Thomas’ 15 fourth-quarter points.

It was the first game for the Blazers without Evan Turner, who broke his right hand Tuesday in Dallas. Maurice Harkless started in Turner’s spot and finished with four points and four rebounds in 23 minutes.

The Celtics cut into a 17-point deficit to draw within 55-49 at halftime thanks to a streaking finish by Thomas. The Celtics’ point guard, who hasn’t scored below 20 points all season, started 2-of-10 from the field, but heated up by scoring 10 points in the final 2:30. His flurry led a 13-2 run to close the half for Boston.

Portland raced to a 32-22 lead after the first quarter as McCollum made his first three shots and Lillard hit two early three-pointers, which complemented the active inside play of Mason Plumlee, who had seven points and four rebounds in the quarter.

Boston played without starters Avery Bradley (Achilles) and Jae Crowder (family matter), starting Brown, a rookie, and third-year player Smart in their place.

Next up: Atlanta at Blazers, 7:30 p.m. Monday (TNT)

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Trail Blazers end losing skid with overtime victory in Boston

Trail Blazers end losing skid with overtime victory in Boston

BOSTON --Thanks to huge games from CJ McCollum and Meyers Leonard, and a late-game spurt from Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers ended their four-game losing streak with a 127-123 overtime win over Boston on Saturday at the TD Garden. 

McCollum had 35 points -- including 26 in the first half -- and Leonard went 4-for-4 on three-pointers and scored a season-high 17 points as the Blazers ended their four game trip back East with their only win. 

Lillard, who was limited to only 10 minutes in the first half after getting his third foul with 10:42 left in the second quarter, finished with 28 points, including a back-breaking three-point-play with 47 seconds left in overtime that gave Portland a 122-118 lead.

Later, Mason Plumlee, who missed a close-range shot to win the game in Philadelphia, scored on a similar shot with 24 seconds to help seal the win. 

Boston reserve Terry Rozier helped force overtime when he made a three-pointer with 8.4 seconds left off an inbounds pass. The Blazers tried to win it, but Lillard missed a fadeaway jumper off the front of the rim. 

Boston led 65-56 at hafltime after closing the half on a 20-8 run. Lillard didn't play for the final 10:42 of the quarter after picking up his third foul while the Blazers were leading 29-28. The Blazers fought back with two runs of 11-0 in the third quarter to take an 88-86 lead into the fourth. 

McCollum made his first five shots and finished 11-for-21 in recording his ninth game this season of 30 or more points.

But the surprising story was Leonard, who didn't play Friday in Philadelphia. The 7-foot-1 big man played 25 minutes and was a factor. He had two monster dunks and made all four of his three pointers, adding four rebounds to his night. 

Next up: Lakers at Blazers, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN)