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).

NBA Notes: Nets to play 2 regular-season games in Mexico City

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NBA Notes: Nets to play 2 regular-season games in Mexico City

NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets will travel to Mexico City in December for two regular-season games as part of the 25th anniversary of the first NBA game in Mexico.

The league announced Wednesday that the Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder will play in Mexico City on Dec. 7. The Nets will play the Miami Heat on Dec. 9. Both games will be in Arena Ciudad de Mexico.

It's all part of the NBA's emphasis on expanding the popularity of basketball in Mexico. Last season, the Phoenix Suns played the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City. The league has played 26 times in Mexico dating back to 1992, the most games held in any country outside of the U.S. and Canada.

The games will be televised on ESPN.

Clippers: Reed’s wife wants domestic battery charge dropped
MIAMI -- The wife of Los Angeles Clippers center Willie Reed said Wednesday she does not wish to press battery charges against her husband after an argument between the couple led to his weekend arrest.

Jasmine Reed said in statement issued by her attorney, Ivlis Mantilla, that the situation was blown out of proportion and that she never called police. Willie Reed, who played last year for the Miami Heat, was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge after the argument Saturday night with his wife at their Miami residence.

A police report quoted Jasmine Reed as saying her 6-foot-11 (2.1 meters), 245-pound (111 kilograms) husband pulled her hair, grabbed her wrists and dragged her in a struggle over her purse. She also told officers she hit Willie Reed with a glass candlestick holder.

On Wednesday, she called Willie Reed "a good man and a great father." The couple has two children.

"This is a private matter between my husband and I and for the sake of our family I would like to keep it that way," Jasmine Reed said (see full story).

Hawks: Veteran Babbitt signs 1-year contract
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks have signed veteran forward Luke Babbitt to a one-year deal.

The Hawks announced the deal on Wednesday. Babbitt will earn about $1.9 million, the league minimum for a player entering his eighth year.

Babbitt has averaged 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds during his NBA career. He will bring experience to a young rebuilding Hawks roster. The 6-foot-9 forward started 55 games for the Miami Heat last season and shot 41.4 percent from 3-point range. He started 36 of the final 41 games when the Heat finished the season 30-11.

Babbitt believes his ability to shoot the 3-pointer is why Atlanta signed him. He says "the way the game is played now, it's so much about shooting and spacing and giving guys room to make plays."

Before his time in Miami, the 28-year-old Babbitt spent three seasons each with New Orleans and Portland.

If you're cool with Chris Paul's decision, then you should be with Kevin Durant's

If you're cool with Chris Paul's decision, then you should be with Kevin Durant's

I'll probably get killed for this because it's 2017 and 75 percent of the audience will only read the headline, but as the self-declared president of Leave Kevin Durant Alone Enterprises, it's my obligation.

Let's start with a simple question: If you had a problem with KD joining the Warriors last summer, do you also have a problem with Chris Paul forcing a trade to the Rockets?

Because if you took issue with what Durant did but felt nothing about Paul fleeing L.A. for Houston ... that's kinda hypocritical.

No, I am not saying the two situations are exactly the same. Here are the differences:

• Durant is a top-three player. Paul is more like top-10 or 12 at this point.

• The Warriors are the best team in the NBA. The Rockets are probably the third-best team in the NBA.

• The Rockets did not eliminate the Clippers in the playoffs this past season.

And that, really, is where the differences end.

Paul wasn't going to win with the Clippers just like Durant wasn't going to win with the Thunder. Would it have made any sense for them to linger on teams destined to go 53-29 and lose in the playoffs rather than find a better situation?

The Clippers and Thunder were fringe Western Conference contenders. They were not going to supplant the Warriors, Spurs or Rockets barring some catastrophic injuries to those top teams. 

Paul could have made the most money staying in L.A.; Durant could have made the most money staying in OKC. But winning was more important to them than extracting every last dollar. And both the Warriors and Rockets were able to maneuver their rosters to pay them a boatload of money anyway. How can you hold the desire to win while also making a lot of money against either of them?

The common refrain for the anti-KD crowd is that the Thunder were a game away from dethroning the 73-win Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals and after losing, Durant joined the team that beat him.

My question is very simple: Does that one playoff series cancel out or outweigh the previous decade of Durant's career? 

The Thunder spent years falling short, and they weren't about to take the next step with Durant, Russell Westbrook and a bunch of guys who have a useful skill or two each. The 2016 WC Finals near-miss wasn't a building block for that OKC team, it was a deflating example of what they were: good enough to go far when they're at their peak, but not good enough to finish the job.

And I guaran-damn-tee you that if the Thunder lost to anyone else in the 2016-17 playoffs, the reaction to Durant's joining the Warriors would have been different.

Plus, it's not like the Thunder had a legitimate path to putting the finishing touches on their roster to surge ahead of the Warriors. They weren't in a great cap situation and had already paid Enes Kanter $70 million and knew they needed to pay Steven Adams. There wasn't going to be a way for OKC to add difference-making pieces to help Durant and Westbrook.

The intent of this is not to persuade people to start criticizing Chris Paul for leaving a good situation for a great one. It's to attempt to persuade the people that will forever dislike Kevin Durant to chill out and realize this is how the modern NBA works. Guys want to play with their friends. Guys want to win. Guys are willing to accept lesser stats and slightly less money in the name of getting a ring and adding to their legacy.

Kobe wouldn't have done what Durant did. Nor would Michael Jordan. But neither of them was in their prime in 2016 or 2017, when juggernauts had already been created in Golden State and Cleveland and a team like the Kobe-Pau Gasol-Lamar Odom Lakers would have gone something like 48-34. They played in different NBAs.

LeBron's Cavs swept Paul George's Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. If that series went seven games instead, would we be blasting George for being interested in going to Cleveland?

OK, I'm done. I promise to settle down about the hypocrisy of the Durant reactions for at least a few months. As long as you promise to realize that those playoff games against the Warriors in 2016 weren't the only seven games of Durant's career.