Isaiah Thomas

Rival NBA players stick up for Jahlil Okafor

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Rival NBA players stick up for Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor is in such an uncomfortable situation.

The Sixers don't want to buy him out, they won't find much of anything in a trade, they're not playing him enough (or at all) to allow his value to grow, and they seem content to just let this all play out despite their lack of interest in retaining him past this season.

Okafor has been crushed by this city, but he deserves credit for handling the last two years as professionally as any professional athlete could. Not until Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2017 did he publicly gripe and complain about his role. Up until then, he was a good soldier, saying the right things, staying quiet and supporting his teammates. 

Brett Brown appreciates the way Okafor has acted throughout this ordeal. It just doesn't mean he's going to play him.

"Jahlil’s done nothing wrong since he’s been here,” Brown said Wednesday. “He’s handled himself with class and he’s been tremendous as a teammate. You’ve got this sort of slippery slope of Bryan (Colangelo) trying to do the best for the organization in a situation that he inherited and Jahlil wanting to play basketball.” 

Not everyone would have handled this precarious situation the same way. Nerlens Noel didn't. In Phoenix, Eric Bledsoe hasn't. In Pittsburgh, Martavis Bryant hasn't. Granted, all those situations involve different context, but the point is that most players don't stay as quiet as Okafor, especially when they've yet to reach a big payday.

Players around the NBA have taken notice of what the Sixers are doing with Okafor. On Thursday morning, injured Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas stuck up for the beleaguered Sixers center.

A few NBA players, including well-traveled point guard Briante Weber, retweeted Thomas' thoughts.

It's interesting to see players who have nothing to do with the Sixers or with Okafor defending him. Thomas has nothing to gain by tweeting that, and the reason he cares is probably because the NBA, like all sports, is a fraternity and he's watching one of his peers be mishandled. 

Okafor is a flawed player, but this is his NBA life, his future. The less he plays, the less chance he has to earn money. The Sixers declined that $6.3 million option for 2018-19, and at this point, it seems unlikely Okafor is able to find nearly that much in unrestricted free agency.

It's hard to figure out what the Sixers are waiting for. Will they do better than a future second-round pick for Okafor? At this point, does it even matter? What good is he doing you on the bench? What good is he doing the organization as an unhappy camper who'll be the subject of questions on a daily basis?

It seems like Colangelo just doesn't want to make a move that could make the Sixers look foolish down the road. No GM ever wants to be the GM who trades a player for 20 cents on the dollar.

But the damage in this situation is done. Barring an injury to Amir Johnson that allows Okafor to return to the Sixers' rotation to put up some numbers, the market won't be improving for the Sixers. That's just not how leverage works. 

Folks outside of Philly are noticing it, too.

NBA Notes: Cavaliers' Isaiah Thomas to miss start of season, maybe much longer

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NBA Notes: Cavaliers' Isaiah Thomas to miss start of season, maybe much longer

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Isaiah Thomas beamed as he held up his new No. 3 Cavs jersey for the first time.

There's no telling when he'll wear it in a game.

Stunned by Boston's decision to trade him to Cleveland as part of a package for Kyrie Irving, Thomas chose not to share much information Thursday about a hip injury that ended his inspirational playoff run last season and will sideline him for the start of this season -- and probably a lot longer.

At his introductory news conference, Thomas quickly deferred specific questions about his hip to new Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman, who said the team has a rehab plan in place for the All-Star point guard.

"We're not going to rush it at all," said Altman, who quickly grew tired of questions about Thomas' health. "The goal is to bring him back at some point this year and be healthy and compete and get back to IT status. That's our goal and our responsibility to him. We're not going to comment on the injury and we're not going to comment on a timetable" (see full story).

NBA: Group seeking Seattle team says it would build 2 arenas
SEATTLE -- An investment group that wants to build a sports arena for professional basketball and possibly hockey has offered to also rebuild KeyArena, the former home of Seattle's departed NBA franchise.

The move Thursday by the group led by investor Chris Hansen is the latest in the long-running debate over building a new arena. Hansen wants to privately build a facility in an area that's home to venues for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners.

The City Council has so far refused to grant him use of a city street necessary for construction of the project.

Hansen's group says it would rebuild KeyArena after building the other facility, preserving it as a concert venue.

The council will review a proposal next week by another group for a privately financed renovation of city-owned KeyArena. Plans for the remodel would bring the building up to standards that could attract an NHL or NBA franchise once completed.

NBA: No contest plea entered in pie attack on Johnson
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A man accused of hitting Kevin Johnson in the face with a coconut cream pie when he was mayor of Sacramento, California, has pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

The Sacramento Bee reports that activist Sean Thompson was sentenced Thursday to two days' time already served in jail after prosecutors agreed to the lesser charge.

Thompson had been charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.

The pie attack occurred at a charity event a year ago. Johnson, a former NBA star, responded by punching Thompson.

Prosecutors initially charged Thompson with felony assault, but a judge declared a mistrial after jurors could not reach a verdict.

Johnson is no longer mayor.

NBA Notes: Isaiah Thomas says being traded by Celtics 'still hurts'

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NBA Notes: Isaiah Thomas says being traded by Celtics 'still hurts'

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas' two sons had different reactions to his trade from the Celtics to the Cavaliers.

His older son, James, is excited that his dad will get to play alongside LeBron James. Thomas' younger son, Jaiden, had fallen in love with Boston and was afraid that Cleveland won't have any skate parks.

Thomas said in a 3,500-word post on The Players Tribune that he himself was also of two minds about the deal that sent him to the Cavaliers, along with two other players and a first-round draft pick, for fellow All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.

He says hearing about the trade in a call from Celtics boss Danny Ainge "still hurts." But he's also excited about playing with James, a four-time MVP, and Kevin Love, a former AAU teammate . Thomas says he won't have to worry about being double- or triple-teamed any more.

Says Thomas: "You are not going to want to mess with the Cavs this year" (see full story).

Pacers: Owner denies report about possibly suing Lakers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon is denying a report that the team might sue the Los Angeles Lakers for tampering with Paul George.

The NBA fined the Lakers $500,000 last week for violating league rules and there was a report that the Pacers were considering legal action, too.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Simon said the Pacers agreed with the league's decision and that the team simply wanted to move on.

Indiana traded George to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis after George's camp let it be known that the four-time All-Star intended to sign as a free agent with the Lakers in July 2018.

Simon acknowledged those sentiments put Indiana "in a tough position" but the Pacers acquired two good players.

Hawks: Team signs 3 players to contracts
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks have signed guards Quinn Cook and Josh Maggette and forward Tyler Cavanaugh.

Cook, from Duke, played five games with Dallas and nine games with New Orleans as a rookie last season. He averaged 5.6 points and 1.9 assists.

Cook is a two-time All-Star in the NBA G League. He was the 2016 G League Rookie of the Year.

Magette signed a two-way contract that will allow him to primarily play for the team's NBA G League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, while also spending up to 45 days with Atlanta.

Magette spent time during the 2016 preseason with the Hawks and was part of the team's summer league roster this year.

Cavanaugh also played for Atlanta's summer league team this season.

Cavaliers: Plans for $140M arena makeover renewed
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers are reviving a $140 million renovation of Quicken Loans Arena just over a week after the project was scrapped.

The team announced Wednesday it'll also extend its lease at the facility for seven extra years, until 2034.

The Cavaliers, who won the 2016 NBA title, hoped to upgrade the 22-year-old downtown arena with more dining spaces and a glass exterior but had faced opposition from community groups objecting to the use of taxpayer money.

The Cavaliers canceled the renovation on Aug. 28 after a referendum petition submitted by the Greater Cleveland Congregations, a religious coalition, gained more than 13,000 valid signatures and threatened to delay the project.

But the coalition withdrew the petition after county officials cut a deal and promised to look into constructing two mental health and substance abuse clinics, allowing renovation plans to move forward again. The Cavaliers will fund half the project as previously planned, while the other half will come from public funding.

Other groups opposed to the project say they weren't consulted before the petition was withdrawn.

"This isn't what the majority of Cleveland citizens wanted," said Steve Holecko, of the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, which has been leading the fight to stop the renovation. "This is corporate welfare at its worst" (see full story).