Dan Feldman

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Report: Isaiah Thomas increasingly doubtful to play in Cavaliers-Celtics on Wednesday

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Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas was reportedly targeting an early January return from injury.

The big game narratively: Wednesday against the Celtics – Thomas’ old team, which he has strong feelings toward.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Now it sounds like Isaiah Thomas won’t play for the Cavaliers in 2017, and there’s doubt growing on his availability for his anticipated return to Boston Jan. 3.

Tyronn Lue was quick to rule him out for Saturday’s game at Utah, and then hedged a bit by saying “I don’t know” when asked if he was already sure Thomas wasn’t playing against the Jazz.

It’s virtually out of the question for a player to play in back-to-back games after being out since May with hip injuries. So, if Thomas were to play against the Blazers, it would be hard to believe he’d also play against the Celtics the next night, even though that’s the team which traded him to Cleveland in the offseason.

Also, there was reluctance from both the Cavs and Thomas for his first game to be a marquee opponent like the Warriors, which was among the reasons he sat out the Christmas game.

It’d be a bummer not to see Thomas in Boston. Considering he’s so comfortable with a chip on his shoulder, it’s highly anticipated to see how he’d respond.

But the Cavs aren’t trying to set up a revenge game. They’re trying to win a championship. In that regard, it’s practically irrelevant precisely when Thomas returns. He’ll clearly play soon, and there’s plenty of time to integrate him before the playoffs.

And there’s always Feb. 11, when Cleveland visits Boston again.

Fire breaks out in rafters of Thunder’s arena (video)

AP Foto/Kyle Phillips
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With their 124-107 win over the Raptors last night, the Thunder have won six straight.

If only there were a symbol for how Oklahoma City is heating up

John Hamm of Daily Thunder:

https://twitter.com/JonMHamm/status/946211648716472321a

Rajon Rondo posts NBA’s first 25-assist game in more than 20 years

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Rajon Rondo held the ball and halted the Pelicans’ offense while directing Cheick Diallo into post position. Once Diallo finally posted up, Rondo bounced a pass into Diallo, who had to move away from the basket to grab the ball. Diallo dribbled twice then hit a turnaround half-hook shot.

Assist No. 25.

Rondo’s 25 assists in New Orleans’ 128-113 win over the Nets on Wednesday were the most in an NBA game since Jason Kidd in 1996. Sure, Rondo chases some assists. Sure, passes are sometimes questionably credited as assists league-wide.

This is still a magnificent accomplishment.

Here are the highest-assist games since 1963-64, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go:

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Rondo recorded his 25 assists in 30:18 of playing time, far less than anyone else on the above chart. Only John Lucas (24 assists in 28 minutes during a 1984 Spurs-Nuggets game) ever neared that combination.

We’ll see whether all 25 of Rondo’s assists hold up, but this almost certainly will. Rondo now has as many 20-assist games as all other active players combined:

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Russell Westbrook and Jonas Valanciunas scuffle over who gets to hold dead ball (video)

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Russell Westbrook and Jonas Valanciunas didn’t want to share.

So, they each got their own technical foul.

Marc Gasol: I’m too old to throw away a season

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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The Grizzlies made clear firing David Fizdale was about trying to salvage the season.

It’s not working.

Memphis, 7-12 when it dropped Fizdale, has gone just 3-12 since. Mike Conley is still injured. Making the playoffs is the longest of longshots.

Should the Grizzlies embrace tanking?

Marc Gasol, whose voice carries weight in Memphis, gave a pointed answer.

Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal:

Ask Gasol about the notion of intentionally losing and it all sounds like gibberish.

“My job is not allowing that to happen,” Gasol said. “My job is not allowing anyone to throw away the season. Because at 32, 33 next month, I don’t have a season to throw away. I don’t have those. I don’t have that luxury. I’m not 23, 24, where I can just say, `Well, next year it’s going to be better.’ I have that sense of urgency and desire to win… I hope that during the next five, six weeks before the break that the situation has completely changed, turned around, and we are a much more consistent team going forward.”

Gasol’s viewpoint is totally reasonable. His time as a star is running out, and he shouldn’t tolerate wasting it.

But I’m not sure what he can do at this point. He’s been trying to win all season, and the Grizzlies have the NBA’s third-worst record.

This is why a trade makes sense. Send Gasol to a team capable of winning now, and allow Memphis to rebuild.

Of course, the Grizzlies have resisted that path.

Maybe they’d be more open to moving veterans like Tyreke Evans, James Ennis and Brandan Wright rather than Gasol, a local icon. But Gasol is preemptively voicing his dissatisfaction with that strategy. He already chafed at Memphis letting Zach Randolph and Tony Allen walk last summer. Gasol wouldn’t like more selling now.

Unless the the Grizzlies make a surprising turnaround, Gasol is headed toward a thrown-away season. Will he quietly accept it? Will his criticism grow louder? Will he get traded?

Gasol’s understandable impatience with losing sets up critical questions in Memphis..