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.

Report: Negotiations to drop one-and-done at standstill over pre-draft issues

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Eventually, the NBA will again open the door for high school players to jump directly to the league — this time around teams are far better prepared to deal with and develop young players than when this was thrust upon them in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Everyone is awaiting the change, because one-and-done has not been good for anyone.

However, talks between the NBA and the players’ union to open that door again in 2022 have hit gridlock and reached a standstill over pre-draft issues. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are struggling to reach an agreement on lowering the age limit to 18, differing on the league’s desire to attach two conditions to ending the one-and-done NBA draft era, league sources told ESPN.

Commissioner Adam Silver is pressing NBPA executive director Michele Roberts to require that player agents furnish all teams with medical information on prospective draft prospects, league sources said. The league also wants to mandate players attendance and some level of participation in the pre-draft combine, sources said…

“We’re investing millions of dollars into players who we’ll now have even less information about coming out of high school, and we should have the right to have all the information available on who we are selecting,” one general manager told ESPN.

From a team’s perspective, it’s easy to see why they want these conditions. As the anonymous GM above notes for teams this is an investment and if a player has a medical issue — such as the heart issues that have led to surgeries for Jeff Green, Ronny Turiaf, and others now including UCLA’s Shareef O’Neal (Shaq’s son) — teams believe they have a right to know in advance.

However, medical information is not freely shared now — agents often withhold it from (and keep their player from working out for) teams they do not want to draft their player all the time. This doesn’t always work, teams draft guys without workouts and medicals every year, but it’s a bit of leverage agents have now to try and get their player to what they see as a better fit (that can be about opportunity or market size).

According to Wojnarowski, 11 of the 65 players invited to the NBA Draft Combine last year did not take part in the medical exam portion (every team has access to that report). That’s about some agents trying to gain a little leverage in the process, for teams the risk is higher if they don’t have that information.

As for the combine, while more and more players are skipping the drills and games part of the event, going through the measurements and interview processes are basically universal.

The NBA drafting straight out of high school is going to happen again — and it should. If a young player is good enough, or on track to be good enough, and he’s a legal adult teams should have the right to bring him in. The NCAA should adapt to a system that keeps the players that do enter college there a little longer — at least two years — allowing for more consistency and a better product for them. (Of course, the NCAA is the protector of a feudal system of “amateurism” that needs to go, so lord knows what they will ultimately do, but bet on it being whatever they must to protect all that money flowing into their pockets.)

The earliest the draft of 18-year-olds would happen is 2022, both giving teams more time to scout what is the current high school freshman class that would graduate that year, and giving teams knowledge of what was coming down the line when trading draft picks.

Jimmy Butler on hearing boos to start, M-V-P chants later, “I love it. I love it.”

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Jimmy Butler knew it was coming. Request a trade out of town and of course the fans are going to boo. Butler also said he thought he could win the Timberwolves faithful over again if he just played hard like always.

That’s how the script played out.

Butler was booed loudly when he was announced — although not as loudly as coach/GM Tom Thibodeau — but by the end of the game they were cheering him and chanting MVP as he dropped 33 points on 12 shots in a Timberwolves win over the Cavaliers, 131-123. After the game, Butler said he was good with the boos.

“I love it. I love it. I think people kind of love to hate me sometimes. Say whatever you want to say, but it really makes me smile, what people think about me. But no matter what, you gotta respect my effort…

“You may not like me, That’s okay. But as long as you know that my mind and my heart are in the right place, that I do everything to win and I would do anything for my guys.”

Butler said he was being made out to be the bad guy in this saga but people don’t know all the facts, then he wouldn’t discuss what it was people didn’t know. Butler also was frustrated with teammates that the Timberwolves had a 21-point lead in the third but it got close again in the fourth (Butler himself was -3 for the game, he was part of that problem). But in the end, as it often does (and as Thibodeau seems to be betting on), winning cures all ills.

Minnesota is now 1-1 on the young season, meanwhile, trade talks surrounding Butler are dormant.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton help Bucks beat Pacers 118-101

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and 15 rebounds and Khris Middleton added 25 points to help the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Indiana Pacers 118-101 on Friday night.

Victor Oladipo led Indiana with 25 points, and Doug McDermott added 14.

The Bucks led 62-53 at the half and extended it to 93-76 entering the third quarter.

Milwaukee, which ranked 25th in the NBA last season with 24.7 3-point attempts per game, continued to fire away under new coach Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks were 17 of 47, with Antetokounmpo going 0 for 7.

WhatAntetokounmpo was doing was dunking.

Middleton had five 3-pointers, including a four-point play that put the Bucks up 111-88 with 5:03 remaining.

The Bucks were 14 of 34 beyond the arc in their 113-112 season-opening victory at Charlotte on Wednesday night.

The Bucks shook off a slow start en route to a 30-25 lead after one quarter, extending it to 62-53 at the half. Milwaukee took 26 of its 51 first-half shots from 3-point range, making eight.

Antetokounmpo had 22 points and 11 rebounds in the first half.

 

Jonas Jerebko? Yes, Jonas Jerebko with game-winner for Warriors

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Jonas Jerebko was a quality under-the-radar pickup for Golden State last summer, a solid veteran power forward who can space the floor and hit threes.

Obviously, the Warriors got him to be their go-to player in the clutch.

Or, at least, that’s what happened in Utah on Friday night.

Jerebko inbounded the ball then rolled to the rim. Rudy Gobert put a body on him, but as Kevin Durant went up for his game-winner attempt, Gobert took a step toward him and that gave Jerebko the space to get inside Gobert. From there it was just a tip in.

This was a wildly entertaining game, where Kevin Durant dropped 38, Stephen Curry had 31, and for Utah Joe Ingles put on a show on his way to 27. Check out the finish of this game, it was amazingly fun basketball with a lot of emotion for the second game of the season.