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NBA Notes: Underdog Isaiah Thomas now facing biggest challenge of career

NBA Notes: Underdog Isaiah Thomas now facing biggest challenge of career

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas' basketball journey is littered with decision-makers who have underestimated the diminutive guard.

He was selected last in the 2011 NBA draft coming out of Washington, and when he arrived in Boston he looked only to be a role player for the storied franchise. Thomas has had to prove his worth with every stop.

Now, following the biggest slight of his NBA career, he'll have to do it again.

All eyes will be watching how he rebounds after Tuesday's blockbuster trade . The Celtics sent the two-time All-Star packing from a franchise and city that he'd embraced with every ounce of his 5-foot-9 frame. He's now bound for Cleveland in exchange for a bigger star -- and what the Celtics believe is a better point guard for them -- in Kyrie Irving.

For all the praise Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge showered on Thomas in explaining what he's meant to the Celtics, the organization took Irving -- a four-time All-Star, Olympic and NBA champion -- over the scrappy underdog who's just beginning to build his resume (see full story).

Celtics: Irving switches to No. 11 with new team
BOSTON -- Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce's No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

Spurs: Undrafted Perrantes signs contract
SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs have signed guard London Perrantes.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed Wednesday

The 22-year-old Perrantes wasn't drafted out of Virginia this year but made summer league appearances for the Miami Heat in Las Vegas and Orlando.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 10 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in the MGM Resorts Summer League. He averaged 11.3 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals in Orlando summer league action.

Perrantes set school career records at Virginia with 138 games and 4,425 minutes. He averaged 12.7 points, 3.8 assists and 3 rebounds during his senior season. He made 40.9 percent of his career 3-point attempts (211 of 516).

Clippers: Team reportedly close to deal with Winger as GM
LOS ANGELES -- The expansion of the Los Angeles Clippers' front office isn't done yet.

After removing Doc Rivers' title as president of basketball operations earlier this month, the team has reached an agreement with Oklahoma City's Michael Winger to become their general manager, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Winger will replace Dave Wohl, who is staying with the team as a special adviser, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has yet to be announced publicly.

Winger had been an assistant GM and team counsel for the Thunder for the last seven years. Previously, the 37-year-old executive worked for the Cavaliers (see full story).

Best of NBA: Clippers spoil Lonzo Ball's debut in rout of Lakers

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Best of NBA: Clippers spoil Lonzo Ball's debut in rout of Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin scored 29 points, DeAndre Jordan added 14 points and 24 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Lonzo Ball's quiet NBA debut with a 108-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Lou Williams added 12 points in the Clippers' first game since Chris Paul spurned the perennial playoff team after six years and forced an offseason trade to Houston. The Clippers will have a new look this season, but they were still miles ahead of their Staples Center co-tenants in both teams' season openers.

Ball had three points, four assists and nine rebounds in 29 minutes during the first game for the No. 2 overall pick from UCLA.

The Los Angeles-area native is expected to revitalize his hometown team this season, but the rookie started out with all the nerves and mistakes that might be expected from any 19-year-old point guard with the weight of a 16-time NBA champion franchise on his slender shoulders. Along with a handful of good-looking passes and a 3-pointer late in the first half, he went 1 for 6 from the field and committed two turnovers.

Brook Lopez scored 20 points in his debut for the Lakers, and Jordan Clarkson added 18.

Patrick Beverley, acquired in Paul's trade to the Rockets, had 10 points in his Clippers debut while introducing Ball to high-level NBA defense (see full recap).

Thunder debut new Big 3 in win over Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had a triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New York Knicks 105-84 on Thursday night in their first regular-season game with All-Star additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony

Westbrook, the NBA MVP last season when he averaged a triple-double, had with 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.

Paul George, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Indiana Pacers, led the Thunder with 28 points. Anthony, who was traded from the Knicks to the Thunder right before training camp began, had 22 points against his former team.

Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks. Enes Kanter, who joined the Knicks in the deal that sent Anthony to the Thunder, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. No other New York players scored in double figures.

George broke away for a dunk as time expired in the first half to give the Thunder a 53-42 lead. Porzingis scored 19 points before the break to keep the Knicks in it.

Kanter made three buckets early in the third quarter to keep the Knicks in it, but Westbrook found Steven Adams and Andre Roberson for back-to-back alley-oop dunks to give the Thunder a 69-52 lead.

After that, it was time for the Westbrook triple-double watch. He reached double digits in points and assists midway through the third quarter. He grabbed his 10th rebound with about four minutes remaining in the game (see full recap).

Raptors cruise past Bulls in season opener
TORONTO -- Jonas Valanciunas had 23 points and 15 rebounds, C.J. Miles scored 22 points in his Toronto debut and the Raptors beat the short-handed Chicago Bulls 117-101 on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.

Norman Powell added 15 points, Delon Wright had 13, and Kyle Lowry 12.

The Raptors, who intend to shoot more 3-pointers and move the ball more this season, were 13 of 29 from long range and had 26 assists on 39 baskets. Lowry had nine assists, and DeMar DeRozan and Wright each had five.

Miles was 6 for 9 from 3-point range and had five rebounds.

Playmaking proved an effective avenue for DeRozan on a night when he made just two of nine field goals and did not attempt a 3-pointer. DeRozan finished with 11 points, going 7 for 8 at the free throw line, and had six rebounds.

Chicago center Robin Lopez scored 18 points, rookie Lauri Markkanen had 17 in his NBA debut, and Justin Holiday added 15.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said forward Nikola Mirotic is doing OK but is still sore two days after suffering facial fractures and a concussion in a practice fight with teammate Bobby Portis. Chicago suspended Portis for eight games following the altercation. Mirotic is expected to be out from four to six weeks (see full recap).

Sixers Notes: Eager for rowdy opener; Joel Embiid talks back-to-backs

Sixers Notes: Eager for rowdy opener; Joel Embiid talks back-to-backs

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers' first home game is Friday night, and if their season opener in Washington, D.C., was any indication of the fans’ excitement level, the Wells Fargo Center will be rowdy. 

Sixers fans traveled to the Capital One Arena on Wednesday and started a “Trust the Process” chant less than a minute into the game, much to the dismay of the Wizards crowd.

That enthusiasm and loyalty was not lost on the players. They are ready to feed off the vibe at the Wells Fargo Center when they host the Celtics. 

“First of all, Philly fans are passionate and I love that about them,” Joel Embiid said. “Just me going out there, playing hard and making plays just to get them off their seat and cheer and yell and just go crazy, I just love that type of atmosphere. It gets me going, too.”

Some players block out the noise from the stands, especially if they aren’t hitting their shots. Embiid, though, wants to hear the support and repay it on the court. 

“If I miss foul shots and then they’re cheering, I know that the next play I’ve got to do better,” he said. “I’ve got to make a crazy block or I’ve got to make a crazy play to get them going. Then that gets me going too because I love the excitement. Since I’ve been in Philly, I’ve embraced it and I just love it.”

The players don’t want the fans to hold back, either. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has played in intense game environments overseas and welcomes the high energy in Philadelphia. 

“Here, whenever you go in the street, people call your name, cheer for you,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “During the game, it gets you going. The crazier they are, the better you feel and the better you’re going to play. It’s the best thing.”

Brett Brown always has emphasized the responsibility he feels to give the crowd a quality product. He reiterated that doing his job well is on his mind every game. For the first time in his tenure, Brown can debut a roster constructed with direction and a foundation.

“I’m confident and comfortable with what we’ve built, that we can deliver this year’s team to a court knowing that the base is there, there are people we really like and see as part of the future,” he said. 

Fans at the home opener will receive a T-shirt with caricatures of Brown, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric on it. 

 

The team also is launching the PhilaFanGram camera system that fans can use to take photos with a specially-designed Sixers-themed filter. 

Back-to-backs for Embiid?
Embiid is awaiting word from the medical staff to hear if he will be cleared for back-to-back games. Following Friday's game against the Celtics, the Sixers travel to Toronto the play the Raptors on Saturday. 

"Yesterday I played and my body feels great today," Embiid said. "My knee feels amazing. I feel like if I had to play today, I feel like I would play depending on how I feel. But I feel like I’m ready."

Embiid was held out of consecutive games last season.