In the past decade, Isiah Thomas has become a punch line. Actually, the better way to phrase that is he made himself a punch line— his wounds are self-inflicted. He wrecked the Knicks.
But before that, Thomas was one of the best point guards ever to play the game. A little guy who led his “bad-boy” Pistons to multiple NBA titles. He was as good on the court as he has been bad off it.
Derrick Rose wants to be like Thomas on the court — be the dominant little guy, bring a title back to Chicago. Rose is young and passionate (oh, and pretty good attacking the rim) but inexperienced.
Isiah Thomas said he met Rose last year after a game in Detroit and that Rose contacted him after the Bulls’ season had ended.
“He was pretty down,” Thomas told ESPNChicago.com by phone on Wednesday. “He asked me ‘How did you do it? How did you win back-to-back championships at this size?’ And my response to him was that once you understand your opponent and know your opponent better than you know yourself, you’ll win.”
In other words, gain experience. And watch a lot of film. Study the game.
The other part of the discussion was putting up with the physical pain and grind — little guys who drive the lane like Rose take a lot of punishment. Rose has already missed games for turf toe and almost sat out Wednesday due to back spasms but decided to play. Thomas’ advice is basically get used to it. But a sprained ankle in the playoffs last year slowed Rose and he is now on pace to go into these playoffs more injured — the Bulls need to start finding a way to get him some rest. Let his body recover a little.
Or that dream of being a little guy who wins a title isn’t happening.
Report: Derrick Rose away from Cavaliers, evaluating his future in basketball
Rose has been out with what seemed like a relative minor, for him at least, ankle injury. The 29-year-old could stick in the league for a while thanks to his reputation and ability to attack the rim to create shots for himself. But the guard is a shell of peak form after years of more serious injuries. This isn’t the career anyone expected for him when he was named the youngest MVP ever in 2011.
The Suns made Mike James – a 27-year-old rookie on a two-way contract – their starting point guard.
Though he eventually ceded the role to Tyler Ulis, James – the only player on a two-way contract to start an NBA game – is still a rotation regular. He’s an aggressive defender and possesses plenty of offensive moves.
The problem: Unless demoted to Phoenix’s minor-league affiliate before then, he’ll max out the 45 allowable NBA days for a two-way player Dec. 6.
We’d still like to get him on the 15-man roster and we’re looking at different ways to do that.
The Suns can unilaterally convert James’ two-contract into a standard one-year minimum deal. Both sides could also negotiate a longer contract.
The bigger issue is clearing a roster spot.
Phoenix has the maximum 15 players with standard contracts with no obvious cuts. Derrick Jones Jr. doesn’t play much, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism creates intriguing upside. Second-rounder Davon Reed is hurt, though teams rarely cut bait so quickly.
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.