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Isaiah Thomas addresses hip injury, thoughts on possible extension with Celtics 05.26.17 at 5:13 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas spoke to reporters on Friday after the Celtics season ended Thursday. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas spoke to reporters on Friday after the Celtics season ended Thursday. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas met with reporters on Friday following the Celtics departure from the playoffs on Thursday night.

The All-Star guard gave updates on his health, as well as commenting on the state of his career.

After being sidelined with a hip injury following Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, the seriousness of the injury was unclear.

Fortunately, it looks as though Thomas may not have to go under the knife.

“[Surgery is] not the No. 1 option right now but it could be once the swelling goes down,” Thomas told reporters. “They want to let it die down a little bit then take another MRI once everything is down and it’s back to normal. We’ll go from there. Hopefully I don’t have to have surgery but I know that is an option.”

Thomas said the injury was first picked up back in March after a hard fall. 

“Since I fell down in March, I think that’s what aggravated it,” Thomas said. “And then I just continued to play on it, continued to try to do as much treatment as possible. Then it just gave out. We knew that would happen at some point. They knew I wasn’t going to sit out until I couldn’t move no more. That’s what happened.”

When asked how long he thinks he will be out this summer, Thomas admitted he has no idea, and while not his strong suit, he will need to simply be patient.

“Everybody’s saying I’ve gotta be patient,” Thomas said. “I’ve never been patient in my life so this is going to be a tough summer. But I’ve gotta do what’s best for me in the long run, what’s best for my body. As Brad continues to say each and every day, it’s how you’re healthiest for the long run. Even Danny [Ainge] and those guys say that, so that says a lot about who they are as people. Most importantly, they care about my health, not just being a basketball player. So the Celtics are definitely behind me in this tough situation, but, I mean, nobody’s going to feel sorry for me. I just have to keep going and figure out what I’ve gotta do to come back at the highest level possible.”

For Thomas, that level was an incredible 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game. The guard emphasized that he is going to work with doctors to come back at nothing less than that.

“The plan is to play until 40, and they know that,” Thomas said. “All them doctors know that. So whatever they have to do to continue to play at not just a normal level, at an MVP level, that’s what I’ve been on them doctors about, and everybody on that training staff is. No matter what happens, let’s make sure I come back even better. And I will.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Kyrie Irving praises Celtics, Isaiah Thomas following Game 5 victory at 12:18 pm ET
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Kyrie Irving dominated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. (David Richard/USA Today Sports)

Kyrie Irving dominated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. (David Richard/USA Today Sports)

Despite all the talk about the dominance of LeBron James, who heads to his seventh consecutive NBA Finals next week, in many ways it was the play of Kyrie Irving that proved to be the undoing of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

The sixth-year point guard was outstanding throughout the series, averaging 25.8 points per game. This was highlighted by his 42-point performance in Game 4, a contest where LeBron had four fouls in the first half for the first time in his career.

Following the Cavs victory and elimination of Boston on Thursday night, Irving heaped praise on the Celtics and their injured leader Isaiah Thomas.

“You have to commend them for accomplishing what they did, especially in the regular season,” Irving said to reporters. “I mean, the goals that they set, they were definitely challenging for us, and it made the league turn for a little bit, just 1 versus 2, 2, 1, who was going to get first place and who was actually ready for the playoffs. That makes basketball exciting. That makes the league exciting. And the fashion that they were playing basketball was at such a high level.”

Thomas, whose extraordinary season and courageous playoff performance was cut short, did not appear in the final three games of the series due to an injured hip.

Irving expressed dismay at the loss of Thomas and complimented his play.

“Honestly we didn’t want IT to go down,” Irving said. “But the way that guy has played, I mean, the way he was playing, he’s deserving of all the credit that he’s gotten. As well as guys like Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk and just all their guys. They’re just dedicated to basketball. They’re coming out and their hitting us, and they don’t care who you are. I was watching before tonight’s game the game that they played in Golden State. And the way, in the fashion that they did that [beating the Warriors at Oracle Arena]. That was the testament, that was the turn of how special they could be. And that made it this far. And it was 1 versus 2. It was a matchup that we were all looking forward to, and I’m glad that we prevailed. But they tested us every single minute, and we needed that.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk
LeBron James embraces ‘tough and determined’ Isaiah Thomas after Game 5: ‘I was happy to see him’ at 2:24 am ET
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May 25, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) meet after game five of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James and Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas meet after game five of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at the TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

In the moments after becoming the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer in a Game 5 rout of the Celtics and heading to the NBA Finals for a seventh straight year, LeBron James began his press conference Thursday night talking about his friend, Isaiah Thomas.

The superstar came up to Thomas after the game on the court and gave him an embrace. After the game, he explained why.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen him since he didn’t return for the second half in Game 2,” James said of Thomas’ season-ending hip injury. “Throughout the series we didn’t get an opportunity to actually have that moment. I know I said a few things in the media about the situation he was going through, but I was happy to see him. Just give him a big hug from myself and my family.

“Just how tough and determined the guy is, and to be able to go through the situation he was going through on a day-to-day basis, still being focused and maintaining his focus for the team — family is everything, and basketball comes second after family, and to see him perform the way he was performing throughout the playoffs under the circumstances was a treat to watch. A lot more words were said, but that’s the gist of it.”

“They were playing basketball at such a high level,” Kyrie Irving added. “And honestly, we didn’t want IT to go down. But the way that guy has played, I mean, the way he was playing, he’s deserving of all the credit that he’s gotten.”

James and Irving were clearly impressed by how Thomas dealt with the death of his sister, Chyna, on the eve of the playoffs on April 15. Then, in Game 1 of the second round against Washington, he broke three front teeth in his mouth before seeing his season end with a hip injury sustained in Game 6 against the Wizards.

James was asked, given how far the Celtics made it this season and that they also own the No. 1 pick, if he thinks it’s likely he’ll see them again next season deep in the playoffs.

“I don’t know. That’s a question that none of us can answer in here. They have a great team right now,” James said. “IT is going to come back healthy. They have the No. 1 pick; we’ll see what they do with that. But I can’t answer that question and know if we’re going to play them in the Eastern Conference finals next year. I have no idea.”

Read More: 2017 Eastern Conference finals, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas
Celtics conduct FaceTime call with injured star Isaiah Thomas after miraculous comeback against Cavaliers 05.22.17 at 6:08 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

CLEVELAND — Isaiah Thomas may be gone, but he’s not forgotten.

In the moments after the Celtics completed a remarkable comeback victory over the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night, forward Kelly Olynyk decided to get Thomas on a FaceTime connection to celebrate.

Thomas is out for the playoffs with a hip injury and did not accompany the team to Cleveland, but he was with them in spirit, and then with them via video connection in the victorious locker room, as his teammates relayed after Monday’s practice.

“He was just happy. He was happy. He was excited,” said Avery Bradley, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the C’s the 111-108 win. “He sent everybody a text, and then Kelly just called him, or he might have been calling Kelly right after the game, so it was nice to see a smile on his face. I just wish he was here.”

The heart and soul of the Celtics, Thomas endured the death of his sister, the loss of a tooth followed by extensive dental surgery, and then finally the hip condition that had bothered him since March before shutting it down.

The Celtics found a way without him.

“It’s very different,” Thomas said. “But all we can do is play hard for him. Like I said, he was excited with the way that we played. We’re a family, and other guys got opportunities to step up for us, and Marcus [Smart] had a big game for us and it could be somebody else next game.”

Smart was happy to play his part, and even happier to share it with Thomas, even if only on a screen.

“He’s ecstatic,” Smart said. “I told him I channeled my inner IT, and he kind of laughed a little bit. It felt good. It felt good to see him smile. He’s been down with everything he’s been going through, and then for him not to be here, I know that hurts him even more. So to see him happy and smiling, it was a good feeling for us.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Eastern Conference finals, Game 3 comeback
Avery Bradley hits 3 to shock Cavaliers at buzzer in Game 3, Marcus Smart huge 05.21.17 at 11:07 pm ET
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May 21, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) shoots over the defense of  Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) during the first half in game three of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart shoots over the defense of Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson during the first half in Game 3 of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics pulled off a miracle Sunday night. 

Avery Bradley’s 3-point shot spun on the back on the rim and fell through with 0.1 seconds left to lift the Celtics to a shocking 111-108 win over the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.

The win narrows Cleveland’s lead to 2-1 in the best-of-7 series and snaps Cleveland’s 13-game record-tying playoff win streak.  

Playing without Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury (and reportedly a right hip labrum tear that could require surgery), the Celtics overcame a 21-point second-half deficit. 

Marcus Smart finished with 27 points on 7-of-10 3-point shooting. Game 4 will be Tuesday night in Cleveland before the series moves back to Boston for Game 5 Thursday.

“When it’s a big moment, you know that kid is going to rise to the occasion. He always has,” Brad Stevens said of Smart. 

Just 48 hours after suffering the most embarrassing loss in their playoff history, the Celtics staged arguably the most unlikely playoff win ever. 

“I really felt like in first half we played way better than the score.” Stevens said of his team’s 66-50 deficit. “I was hoping law of averages would kick in at some point. Some of those shots were just incredible. Started slow in third quarter. Our guys were better towards end of third, goes back and forth and we were lucky to win.”

The Celtics were down 77-56 before starting their epic comeback. LeBron James finished just 4-of-13 and 11 points in 45 minutes. The Cavaliers were just 2-for-17 in the second half. 

Using a scorching first-half display from Kevin Love and another powerful effort from Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers seemed on their way to setting a new NBA playoff standard with their 14th consecutive postseason win while pulling within one game of the NBA finals for a third straight season and putting LeBron James in the finals for a seventh straight season. 

The Celtics went with a starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson. Midway through the first quarter, Johnson had to go to the locker room with team doctor Brian McKeon after injuring his shoulder. Johnson would return to action in the second quarter.

The Cavaliers came out on fire from deep, hitting nine threes in the first quarter, a NBA playoff high this season for a quarter. Kevin Love was a one-man wrecking crew, draining five of his seven 3-point attempts, falling one shy of the NBA playoff mark for a single quarter set by Boston’s Antoine Walker in 2002 in the Game 3 against Philadelphia. 

Overall, the Cavaliers hit 9-of-13 from deep to take a 35-24 lead after the first quarter. The Cavaliers were 11-0f-17 from the field in the first quarter and the nine threes were the most in the playoffs since Boston drilled nine against Philadelphia in the decisive Game 5 33-point blowout on May 3, 2002. 

Down 44-29, the Celtics used a 7-0 run to cut the lead down to eight. 

(For a full box score, click here.)

Love continued to kill the Celtics in the second, hitting two more threes and then with a minute to go, he took a handoff from J.R. Smith under the Cavs basket and executed a perfect length-of-the-court chest pass that dropped into the hands of LeBron James for a layup. 

On the next possession, J.R. Smith hit an off-balance 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers their biggest lead at 66-48. There was simply not much the Celtics could do but shrug. The Cavaliers made exactly 60 percent of their shots (21-of-35) in the opening half. Love finished the first half making 7-of-10 from 3-point range and 22 points. James had just eight points and the Cavaliers still led, 66-50, at the half. 

It was the most-competitive half of the series to this point in the series. The Cavaliers led by 22 points in at the half of Game 1 and 41 points in Game 2. 

The Cavaliers quickly built their lead up to 20 points in the first two minutes of the third quarter before getting a bit sloppy. LeBron James had a layup at the rim and gave it up for a bounce pass in the paint for Tristan Thompson. It resulted in a turnover. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Love
Chris Mannix on OM&F: Gordon Hayward is Celtics’ guy, could be interested in trading for Jimmy Butler 05.17.17 at 4:03 pm ET
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The Celtics appear to be in on Gordon Hayward. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics appear to be in on Gordon Hayward. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Vertical’s Chris Mannix joined Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Wednesday to discuss the NBA draft lottery and what the Celtics plan to do this summer. To hear the interview, go to the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria audio on demand page.

Mannix believes the Celtics will take Washington guard Markelle Fultz No. 1 overall, and then target signing Gordon Hayward, who played for Brad Stevens at Butler.

“Well, they can’t just go out there and extend all these offers to everyone that hits the free agent market, but they don’t intend to,” Mannix said. “They’ve got a pretty good idea of what they want to do this summer.

“Gordon Hayward is the guy. That’s who they are going to roll out the red carpet for and see if they can lure him away from Utah. They know the financial situation there. Gordon can make a lot more money staying with the Jazz, but they believe that the lure of Brad Stevens and the appeal of playing in the Eastern Conference and getting far, far away from the Golden State Warriors is going to be a luring to Gordon Hayward.”

Mannix also said the Celtics could be in on trading for the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler if the price has come down since the deadline and extending Isaiah Thomas is not a priority. He will be a free agent after next season.

“I don’t think it is a priority for Boston to extend Isaiah Thomas this summer,” he said. “I really don’t. He wants the money. He wants to be paid in that $20-25 million per season range. He thinks he’s done enough to earn it. He’s right, but I don’t see Boston making that a real priority here. I think their priority is to make a splash in free agency and I think they are going to sit down and sell this to Isaiah. They are going to tell him, ‘We want to pay you. We’re not afraid to pay you. We believe you’re worth $25 million a year, whatever it is that you think you are worth. We just can’t do it right now.’ You have to have cap flexibility to give a guy an extension. There has to be room under your cap to do that.

“Boston wants Hayward. They want to try and go out and trade for a Jimmy Butler if he turns out to be more available than he was at the deadline. I think giving Isaiah an extension is pretty far back on Boston’s list of priorities.”

Read More: Chris Mannix, Gordon Hayward, Isaiah Thomas,
Four years later, Celtics reaping biggest benefits of Danny Ainge’s brilliant Garnett-Pierce coup at 10:16 am ET
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Danny Ainge remade the Celtics in the 2013 offseason.  (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Danny Ainge remade the Celtics in the 2013 offseason. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

It all seems silly now, but four years ago, it appeared as if Danny Ainge had repeated Red Auerbach’s mistake and held onto his aging nucleus for too long. A lethargic-looking team was bested by the lowly Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett laboring up the court in all six excruciating games. 

The Celtics passed the mantle to the Heat the previous season, when Miami ousted them in a thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference Final. Faced with a 3-2 series deficit, LeBron James scored 45 points in Game 6 at T.D. Garden, asserting himself as the dominant force in the conference for years to come. 

But yet, Ainge elected to keep Pierce and Garnett around for one more run. Then Rajon Rondo tore his ACL in January, missing the remainder of the season and destroying the Celtics’ hopes at playoff advancement. 

That offseason, it seemed like it would be a tall task for Ainge to acquire value for his two old and depleted Hall of Famers. But then a Russian oligarch intervened. Desperate to win, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov surrendered four first-round picks and a boatload of other assets, including a trade exception, for Garnett and Pierce’s services. It may go down as the most lopsided deal in NBA history. 

The Celtics reaped the fruit of the Nets’ haste Monday night, when they won the draft lottery secured the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft for the first time in franchise history. There’s a star-studded crop of prospects on the board this year, including guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. While James Young (No. 17 in 2014) is a project and Jaylen Brown (No. 3 in 2016) is a solid rotation player, the Celtics have a chance to bring in a bonafide star. They also own Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2018. 

What makes this situation so unique, of course, is the fact that the Celtics are in the Eastern Conference Finals. Assuming they keep the selection, they’ll be adding the No. 1 overall pick to a team that’s on the edge of championship contention. 

And the man who’s most responsible for that, Isaiah Thomas, can be tied back to the Garnett-Pierce blockbuster as well. 

The Celtics acquired Thomas from the Suns at the deadline in 2015 for the Cavaliers’ 2016 first-round selection and guard Marcus Thornton. The C’s scooped up that pick and Thornton along with starting center Tyler Zeller two summers ago in a three-team trade with the Cavaliers and Nets. They were able to facilitate the deal by using their aforementioned $10.4 million trade exception. (In the NBA, a trade is only OK’d if the salaries going both ways match up.)

So even before Fultz or Ball even come to Boston, the Celtics can already thank the Nets for helping them acquire a potential franchise cornerstone. And another one may be on the way in 2018. 

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Garnett
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