Kurt Helin

Isaiah Thomas reiterates he wants to stay in Boston and wants to get paid

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When you’re wearing Brinks truck slides, you know contract questions are going to come up.

Isaiah Thomas has been clear from the start: He loves being a Boston Celtic and wants to stay with the team where he became an All-NBA player, but he knows next summer’s contract is his one big kick at the can and he wants to get paid. Thomas reiterated all of that speaking at his youth camp, a video of which Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe posted.

“I’m going to play my game. I’m going to play the game the way I know how and play to win, I think everything else will take care of itself. It’s not like I’m going in, ‘it’s a contract year, I’m going to do this’ I’m just going to be myself, it’s the only thing I know how to do. People always say he’s always talking about (the contract), I only talk about it when people bring it up. My time will come, like I say, and when that time comes we’ll make sure we handle it the right way…

“Boston knows where my heart is at, I would love to be back, I would love to be here for years to come. Sometimes this game is a business, and just like the Celtics are going to look out for themselves I gotta do what’s best for my family, and hopefully, that’s here in Boston.”

The first question for Thomas needs to be is his hip healthy? For an undersized player like Thomas, who relies on quickness and having a crafty game, just a little loss of mobility/explosion in his hip could dramatically impact his play. If he is right, the Celtics need to make sure this contract talk doesn’t become a distraction in a year the Celtics could challenge or pass the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference (not just in the regular season but in the playoffs).

Next summer, it’s going to be interesting to watch the Thomas situation. Normally if a 29-year-old, All-NBA player who averaged 28 points a game came up it would be a no-question max contract (Boston can go five-years, $177 million). Thomas may well be different, teams will be hesitant about that fourth — and for Boston certainly the fifth — year of that contract. Also, in a tight market, can teams come in at less than the $35 million (if he’s All-NBA again)? I would not be shocked to see Thomas get offers of three or four years, maybe in the $85 to $120 million range. That’s a big contract, he’ll make nearly as much in the 2018-19 season as he has his entire career up to that point, but it would not be the max. It will be interesting to watch.

Anthony Davis said he’s heard, is ignoring trade rumors

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The New Orleans Pelicans are not trading Anthony Davis.

Why? Because they are not stupid. Nobody sane would trade a first team All-NBA player who averaged 28 points and 11.8 rebounds a game, who is a defensive force, a true franchise cornerstone player, who is just 24-years old and has four years left on his contract.

Yet this summer, the wet dreams of Boston fans (and management) led to rumors that the Celtics were trying to get Davis. The rumors bubbled up to the point that one of the children at Davis’ youth basketball camp in New Orleans asked him if he was going to Boston, Davis told the New Orleans Times Picayune. He said he heard the rumors and found there to be nothing to them.

Davis said that he spoke with his agent, Thaddeus Foucher, and Pelicans general manager Dell Demps about the rumors earlier in the offseason and he was assured that there was nothing to worry about.

“I understand it’s a business, but if I don’t hear anything from Dell or my agent, I don’t pay attention to it,” said Davis, who averaged 28 points and 11.8 rebounds in 2016-17.

“Once I first heard (the rumors), then I heard it again, then I heard it again, I just wanted to make sure. I found out it wasn’t (true), and that was the beginning of the summer, so I haven’t paid attention to it since.”

Davis said his focus is on playing well with DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday and getting the Pelicans to the playoffs. Davis’ Pelicans have only made the playoffs once in his five seasons, while Cousins has never made the postseason.

If the Pelicans miss the playoffs in a deep West — a very real possibility — and maybe even if it does, there will be a major basketball operations house cleaning in New Orleans. If the Cousins/Davis gambit doesn’t play off, expect GM Dell Demps, coach Alvin Gentry and plenty of others on the basketball side of things to be gone. This has created a real pressure on the team this season.

If that happens, does anyone think the new GM is going to trade Davis? No. At that point, Davis will be a 25-year-old franchise player with three years left on his contract and that new GM will try to rebuild around him. And even when that next contract ends, the Pelicans will be able to offer Davis the designated veteran super-max contract to seek to retain him. A small-market franchise like the Pelicans can’t give up on Davis, guys like that are too hard to replace.

Is it possible that in a couple years more years of losing Davis goes to the Pelicans and asks to be traded? Yes. It’s also possible that in a couple of years the Pelicans will realize he will leave at the end of this contract — turning down the super max deal — so they need to move him to get something in return. However, even those fever dreams are a couple of years away, at best. For the immediate future, Davis is a Pelican, and that’s not changing.

Looking Ahead: Who makes Western Conference All-Star team?

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This summer saw an almost unprecedented shift of All-Star level player talent in the NBA — and a lot of it went from the East to the West, including three East All-Stars from last season. The West is flat-out stacked — and that is before the possible arrival of Kyrie Irving and/or Carmelo Anthony.

It led to the question: What will the All-Star teams look like?

Yesterday we talked about the East. Today, I try to whittle down an insanely deep player pool to the 12-man Western Conference All-Star Team.

ALL-STAR STARTERS (two guards, three frontcourt players):

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

Comment:
Remember, these are voted on by a combination of fan, media, and player votes. The West is so deep that other guys may well be deserving and could sneak in, but this seems like the most likely five. Curry is arguably the most popular player in the NBA and will likely lead fan voting, and Westbrook will still put up numbers. That front court is just ridiculous.

ALL-STAR RESERVES (two guards, three frontcourt players, two wild cards):

James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
Chris Paul (Houston Rockets)
Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)

Comment:
The reserves are selected by a vote of the coaches, and I don’t envy them trying to narrow this group down. How deep is the West? Here is another 12 guys, a full team, I had to leave off who very well could be deserving: Damian Lillard, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul Millsap, Mike Conley, Nikola Jokic, Devin Booker, C.J. McCollum, Dirk Nowitzki, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gaol, and Rudy Gobert. How guys play in the first half and, of course, injuries, will go a long way to deciding who gets in and who is out. Put simply, there are going to be “snubs” because the West is so deep and there are only so many slots. I went with guys who should put up numbers and be on teams that get a lot of notice because they win, but there are a lot of directions this could go.

Report: C.J. Wilcox will sign two-way contract with Portland

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After two seasons buried on the Clippers’ depth chart, going into last season in Orlando it seemed like this was C.J. Wilcox’s chance to break out and prove he was a rotation player. It never happened. He battled knee tendonitis and a series of minor injuries from the start, and when he got the chance he shot just 25.8 percent overall and 2 percent from three. Orlando moved on.

Portland is going to give him a chance to develop, but mostly in the G-League, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wilcox can spend 45 days up with the Trail Blazers but primarily he will be down in the G-league getting reps. Wilcox has shown he can shoot from three — he shot 39 percent from deep his second season with the Clippers — and he has handles and can penetrate. Now he has to prove he can stay healthy and show off those shooting and offensive skills on a regular basis.

New NBA schedule will have more rest built in, especially before televised games

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At some point in the next 72 hours, the NBA will drop the 2017-18 schedule. Little bits are already starting to leak out, for example, the Thunder and Nets will play in Mexico City on Dec. 7.

While the immediate focus of looking at the schedule will be to find the big games — who is playing on Christmas Day, for example — there is a new overarching theme:

Rest.

As in, the league office expects fewer DPN-rest days.

The league is starting 10 days earlier and has put in a conscious effort to build more rest into the schedule, the league office told teams in a memo. Brian Windhorst of ESPN saw the memo and covered some of the highlights.

In a memo given to teams this week, the league outlined how it hopes to reduce the stresses of travel and give players a chance to recover more than in the past. This is a proactive measure aimed at both player safety and to reduce the number of games in which teams rest healthy players.

After a series of high-profile players didn’t play in major matchups last season, the new schedule protects key national television matchups to make sure teams aren’t playing on back-to-back nights…

• Reduction of five games in seven nights to just 40 instances across (1.3 per team), down from last year when it was on the schedule 90 times (three per team).

• Reduction in number of back-to-backs to 14.9 per team, down from 16.3 per team. In all, 40 back-to-backs have been eliminated from last season.

Make no mistake, Gregg Popovich is still going to rest his guys. LeBron James is going to get nights off during the season. Steve Kerr is still going to listen to his team’s medical staff and get Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant rest if they show signs of fatigue.

However, expect a genuine effort by teams not to rest their biggest stars on the league’s biggest television nights. The NBA has worked to make sure that if the Celtics are playing on a Thursday night TNT game it’s not at the end of a long road trip where Brad Stevens would be more likely to give Isaiah Thomas or Gordon Hayward the night off. The NBA has been embarrassed by the number of DNP-rest games for stars for big, nationally televised contests, as has happened the past couple of seasons.

We’ll see how this impacts the trend of DNP-rest games, which have increased in recent years. But my guess is it will feel like the trend is decreasing, even if numerically it is not, because we’ll see it less often in the biggest games.