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NBA Playoff Notes: Celtics' Thomas out for playoffs; Spurs' Leonard to miss Game 3

NBA Playoff Notes: Celtics' Thomas out for playoffs; Spurs' Leonard to miss Game 3

Updated: 7:20 p.m.

BOSTON -- Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas will miss the rest of the playoffs because of a hip injury, further damaging -- if not outright dooming -- the team's chances in the Eastern Conference finals against Cleveland.

The Celtics made the announcement Saturday, a day after Thomas left Game 2 at halftime. The Cavaliers already led by an NBA-record 41 points at that point, and they went on to a 130-86 victory that gave them a 2-0 lead over the top-seeded Celtics in the best-of-seven series.

The Celtics said Thomas injured the hip in March and aggravated it in Game 6 of the East semifinals against Washington. The swelling increased during the first two games against Cleveland, team doctor Brian McKeon said, and Thomas was limping on the court just before halftime on Friday night.

"Isaiah has worked tirelessly to manage this injury since it first occurred," McKeon said. "In order to avoid more significant long-term damage to his hip, we could no longer allow him to continue."

Thomas did not travel with the team to Cleveland for Game 3 on Sunday. The Cavaliers could finish off the sweep with victories in Cleveland.

"He was pretty despondent not to be able to play," Boston coach Brad Stevens said Friday night. "He's a tough guy, and for him to have to sit is really hard."

A 5-foot-8 guard who was the last selection in the 2011 NBA draft, Thomas emerged as a star this season, averaging nearly 29 points and leading the league in fourth-quarter scoring.

Last week, he earned All-NBA second team honors, the first Celtics player to be selected to the All-NBA first or second team since Paul Pierce in 2009.

He was scoring 23.3 points per game in the playoffs -- including a 53-point game vs. Washington that was one shy of John Havlicek's franchise postseason record (see full story).

Spurs: Leonard (ankle) out for Game 3 in San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard will not play against Golden State in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals because of a sprained left ankle.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Leonard was not happy being told he will sit out with the Warriors leading the series 2-0.

"Kawhi is out," Popovich said. "I spoke to Kawhi, we spoke to everybody, we all speak about it," Popovich said. "In the end, I guess it's my decision. He's not thrilled he's not playing, but he's not ready."

Leonard, who was selected to the All-NBA first team on Friday, has not played since aggravating the injury in the third quarter of Game 1 and has not participated in practice other than light shooting.

He initially injured the ankle against Houston in Game 5 of their second-round series on May 9 after inadvertently stepping on James Harden's foot while in transition.

Leonard aggravated the injury twice in the third quarter of Game 1 against the Warriors on May 14, including a controversial close-out by Zaza Pachulia that Popovich called "dangerous" and "unsportsmanlike."

Pachulia, who suffered a bruised right heel in Game 2, will also not play in Game 3.

Leonard returned to Game 1 against Golden State after stepping on the foot of teammate David Lee, who was sitting on the bench. But shortly after returning, Leonard landed on Pachulia's foot while attempting a 3-pointer and had to be helped off the court.

The Warriors were expecting Leonard to play despite the injury, with Kevin Durant stating he was "100 percent" certain the All-Star forward would start Game 3.

The news also took the Spurs by surprise.

"No Kawhi?" Danny Green asked incredulously during Saturday morning's shootaround when asked about playing without Leonard.

"Still hope. I'm still going to hope until tipoff that he's going to show up with a cape."

The Warriors have outscored the Spurs by 61 points since Leonard exited Game 1 with 7:52 remaining in the third quarter. San Antonio was leading 78-55 when Leonard exited, but Golden State went on a 16-0 run and has not looked back since the series-altering injury.

Source: Sixers will acquire Mike Muscala, send away Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson in 3-team trade

Source: Sixers will acquire Mike Muscala, send away Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson in 3-team trade

The Sixers were involved in a trade with Carmelo Anthony.

Exhale, Sixers fans, Anthony is not coming here. Instead, Anthony is being shipped to the Hawks — who will likely waive the veteran forward — with a 2022 protected first-round pick for point guard Dennis Schroder, according to a report Thursday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Sixers in turn will send Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Thunder and Justin Anderson to the Hawks to acquire Atlanta’s Mike Muscala, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the Sixers' side of the deal.

The move makes sense for the Sixers on a couple fronts. After missing out on Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to a deal with the team and then backed out, Brett Brown gets a player with a similar skill set in Muscala. The former Bucknell star has great size (6-foot-11, 240 pounds) and the ability to shoot (37.8 percent from three for his career).

It also makes sense from a roster standpoint. The team had a bit of a logjam on the wing and had 16 players for 15 roster spots. By losing two players and getting only one back, the Sixers are now at 15 players under contract. That also includes Jerryd Bayless, who will likely be bought out or stretched, but does not include 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden or 2018 second-round pick Shake Milton.

Muscala had a career year for the lowly Hawks. He averaged 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes a game — all career marks. He also hit 37.1 percent of his threes on 3.2 attempts. A second-round pick by the Mavericks in 2013, Muscala has spent all five of his NBA seasons in Atlanta.

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Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Here’s a brief message that some Sixers fans can use right now: relax.

Remember that you have a team with two budding superstars that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals just last season and should only be headed upward from here.

Sure, there’s going to be some level of disappointment when Brett Brown proclaimed the Sixers were going “star hunting” this summer only to come up empty on the free-agent market outside of re-signing their own players.

But, more than anything, how things transpired for the Sixers over the past few weeks should let you know that much more goes into landing a free agent than simply basketball.

Look at the first major domino to fall in free agency, Paul George. The five-time All-Star didn’t hesitate to make his decision and announced he was rejoining the Oklahoma City Thunder at a Russell Westbrook party shortly after midnight on July 1.

Despite the Sixers being in the mix for George, the Thunder always had the upper hand. The Thunder had George in the fold for a full year after acquiring him from Indiana last summer and used every day to convince him OKC was the right place to move forward.

“They honestly check the boxes where I needed those boxes to be checked from what a player wants and needs out of a front office, out of a medical group, out of teammates, out of coaching staff,” George said during exit interviews. “I mean, honestly, they can't say it anymore [than] that. They checked the boxes on what needs to be checked.”

Even with George on the market, the Sixers always had their top focus on the biggest available fish in the game: LeBron James. They even secured a meeting with James’ camp, albeit only with agent Rich Paul and not the three-time champion himself. 

Still, the Sixers, with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid leading the way, were serious contenders for James as Paul confirmed.

"The teams that he looked at, he looked at for guys like Ben Simmons,” Paul, who is also Simmons’ agent, said on NBA TV during a summer league game. “There's a reason why he looked at Philadelphia, but ultimately he chose the Lakers.”

And what ultimately made James join the Lakers, no matter what his representatives say to the contrary, had little to do with basketball. James has turned himself into an entertainment mogul, so who better to learn from than Magic Johnson? 

After all, King James reportedly already had dinner in Los Angeles last week with Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio

We all love Philadelphia, but those types of Hollywood power brokers aren’t exactly making reservations for restaurants on Broad Street.

So the Sixers swung and missed on George for familiarity and James for off-court opportunities. 

Perhaps you can swallow missing out on two of the game’s best players, but now role players are spurning the franchise too? That’s enough to push a Sixers fan over the edge … until you dig a little bit deeper.

Nemanja Bjelica had his qualifying offer with the Minnesota Timberwolves rescinded and immediately jumped to the best situation for him when he reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Sixers.

However, Bjelica informed the team he was backing out of the deal and returning to Europe. That was until fellow Serbian and Kings general manager, Vlade Divac, came calling. Now the two sides are apparently deep in discussion on a multi-year contract.

Once you push through the initial wave of confusion, you find out that Bjelica simply didn’t want to move his family to Philadelphia for a year and be back on the hunt next summer. He was seeking what most of us do in a new job, which is stability. 

While that may seem a bit unreasonable for an NBA reserve big man, you can’t blame a guy for trying. And now it appears he may find some of what he desired in Sacramento.

Back here in Philadelphia, the Sixers are surely second-guessing what happened to their star hunt this offseason. While it came up empty-handed, the Sixers — and their fans — have to understand that so much more factors into securing a free agent than what actually takes place on the court and is not a red flag on the franchise.

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