Agent says Isaiah Thomas won’t come off the bench, Magic Johnson calls Lonzo Ball the Lakers’ starting PG

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Just last season, Isaiah Thomas finished fifth in MVP voting. You could hear the beeping as his Brinks truck backed up.

Yesterday, the Cavaliers traded him – seemingly more as an expiring contract than basketball player – to the Lakers, a team that already has a franchise point guard in Lonzo Ball.

Rachel Nichols on ESPN:

I’ve been texting with Isaiah Thomas’ agent, and he says in capital letters: “HE IS NOT COMING OFF THE BENCH.” The idea is that they would a buyout, maybe, before they did something like that.

Ohm Youngmisuk ESPN:

Johnson and Pelinka made it clear that Thomas will play for the Lakers and that management can see him mentoring and playing alongside rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. Johnson said Ball remains the team’s starting point guard but that the Lakers need someone to fill the role while Ball is out with a sprained MCL.

“We talked to him. He’s so excited,” Johnson said of Thomas. “He said his father was born and raised in Inglewood so he’s really excited, and also right now Zo’s hurt. We need a point guard. So especially with that type of experience and the fact that he can score the basketball and pass it, we want to get him in here fast. We told him that. … We need somebody to come in there and lead our troops.”

“It’s not about starting, it’s about how many minutes you get,” Johnson added. “He’s going to get a lot of minutes.”

Thomas’ agent, Aaron Goodwin, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

Once he spoke to (Lakers president of basketball operations) Magic (Johnson) and (general manager) Rob (Pelinka), he was ecstatic about the opportunity. It’s clear that he’ll get a chance to play, and play up-tempo like he has played throughout his career. And that’s all we can ask for. That was our biggest concern.

This situation takes care of itself while Ball is still sidelined. After that? It’s unclear exactly where Thomas falls between just being initially upset about the trade then calming down and holding a sustaining, complete opposition to coming off the bench.

Thomas and Ball can play together in that Ball is tall enough to defend multiple positions (though not necessarily well at this stage of his career) and Thomas can’t defend anyone. Offensively, there’s probably too much overlap between the primary ball-handlers, though Ball cuts well off the ball.

Starting is often about pride, and Thomas has plenty. Even with significant playing time, he might balk at a reserve role. And when Thomas is unhappy, he’s not one to stay silent.

Thomas is running out of time to prove himself before free agency. He was dreadful in Cleveland as he returned from a hip injury, and the Lakers’ season will end months before the Cavs’. A big payday, already, an uphill battle battle, became even more unlikely with yesterday’s trade.

In the end, Thomas will probably do what the Lakers ask. What choice does he have? He’s due just $2,193,257 the rest of the season. Even if he volunteered to relinquish all that, is it enough for the Lakers to accept a buyout?

Thomas worked his tail off to become a star while still locked into a relatively low-paying contract, played through injury then got traded twice – now to a team with a point guard it already believes in. I empathize with him.

But, at this point, his best way to maximize future earnings is playing well whatever role the Lakers give him.

Watch best of Klay Thompson’s nine threes, 35-point night

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Stephen Curry is a better shooter. Kevin Durant is a better scorer with a bigger toolbox.

But no Warrior can get as white-hot as Klay Thompson.

He did that on Saturday night helping the Warriors to a Game 6 win, getting his rhythm and becoming a scoring machine in the second half, finishing with 35 points including hitting 9-of-14 from three, and having six rebounds. He was just as important on the other end of the floor.

“I thought Klay was amazing tonight, not just for 35 points and the nine threes, but his defense,” Coach Steve Kerr said. “The guy’s a machine. He’s just so fit physically. He seems to thrive in these situations. But he was fantastic.”

Thompson will need to bring some of that Heat in Game 7 on the road if the Warriors are going to head back to the NBA Finals.

Backs against wall down 17, Warriors crank up defense, rain threes, force Game 7

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Warriors’ fans have been asking one question since the season tipped off in October:

What is it going to take to get Golden State to truly focus and play up to their potential?

Apparently, the answer is going down 17 to the Houston Rockets in a playoff elimination game.

Houston entered Oracle Saturday night playing smart and with energy, defending as they had the previous two games and then turning that into transition buckets and threes — eight of them in the first quarter. Houston was up 17 in the first and 10 at the half.

However, Golden State had started to defend better in the second quarter and they cranked up the intensity to the level fans had hoped to see in the second half — Houston scored 39 points in the first quarter and 47 combined in the final three. The Warriors were also forcing turnovers, 21.3 percent of Rockets possessions ended with a turnover (more than one in five trips down the court). Houston had 25 points in the second half and shot 2-of-9 from three in the third quarter.

At the same time, Klay Thompson led an onslaught of threes for Golden State (Thompson had 9 threes on the night). The Warriors defense turned into offense.

The result was a dramatic turnaround and a 115-86 Golden State win, tying the Western Conference Finals at 3-3.

Game 7 is in Houston Monday night. Winner advances to the NBA Finals.

“Effort. Intensity. Passion,” Thompson said of the Warriors’ second-half surge. “When we do that, and we rotate, and we help each other we’re the best defensive team in the league.”

While it was their defense that sparked everything, the Warriors also found an offense that worked against the Rockets’ switching defense — more Stephen Curry with the ball in his hands. There are a few ways to counter a switching defense and one is a creative ballhandler who can still make plays — not just isolation plays, but who can create a little space and find guys moving off the ball despite the pressure. Curry was that guy, he was the Warriors best all-around player on the night. He had a high IQ game and added 29 points. With the offense not running through Kevin Durant isolations, it just flowed better (the Warriors best lineup of the night was Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and Nick Young, +13 in just more than eight minutes).

It just took a lot of pressure from a Rockets team to get Golden State into that mental frame of mind.

Houston opened this game with the same defensive energy they had the last two games, and once again it flustered the Golden State offense. Except, this time the Rockets did a much better job of turning those misses and turnovers into transition points (the Rockets averaged two points per possession on the break in the first half). Throw in some terrible defensive communication errors by the Warriors, and the Rockets were raining threes in the first half — 11-of-22, with Gordon going 4-of-4.

The Warriors had some success with an ultra-small lineup that unleashed Curry, but as soon as non-shooters were on the floor — Kevon Looney, Jordon Bell, and the Rockets were daring Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston to shoot — Houston shrunk the floor and took away passing lanes, plus contested every shot.

In the second half, the Warriors used that Curry energy and hit their threes to pull away. The Warriors were at their best with Bell as the fifth man with the four All-Stars, he brought an energy and athleticism that made things flow on both ends. Don’t be shocked if he starts Game 7 for Golden State.

If the Warriors pack up that second half energy with them and take it to Houston, there is not much the Rockets will be able to do. But do not expect these gritty, feisty Rockets to go quietly into that good night.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.