Free agent Adonis Thomas is healthy and ready for another chance to play in the NBA.
Thomas last appeared in training camp with the Detroit Pistons last season, but was cut after suffering a leg injury that kept him out for most of the preseason. The decision for the Pistons to cut Thomas was a bit difficult to make as he was one of the best players during training camp.
“The first week of camp, I mean, go back and check the numbers from our scrimmages, he was one of the top four or five guys out here early on,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said at the time.
“He [was] in great shape, he was ready, but he just hasn’t been ready to compete in almost three weeks and really didn’t look like he was ready to go even yesterday. The decision part was actually easy because of that, but it was a hard one to tell a guy because we really, really like him.”
Following his release from the Pistons, Thomas appeared in just two games for the Pistons’ D-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive, before suffering a season-ending wrist injury in November.
Thomas was just cleared to resume basketball activities back in April, and has been working hard to get back into the NBA. He has worked out for several teams recently, and also competed in front of about 23 NBA teams at the Relativity Sports Pro Day last weekend in Bradenton, Fla.
“This was something that I really needed this summer, especially early in the summer while mini-camps are going on and while teams are looking for Summer League guys and also just teams that just thought of me being a part of their roster,” Thomas told Basketball Insiders after his Pro Day workout.
“I got a chance to shoot the basketball pretty good, got a chance to get to the whole in three-on-three so I did some things that I really liked. I was satisfied with what was going on; this is a great opportunity.”
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Thomas during his road back from injury is he looks to be in great shape. Oftentimes after suffering an injury, it can be difficult for players to stay in shape. Since Thomas had a wrist injury, he was still able to run and do leg exercises. He joked that he wasn’t able to go too hard exercising since he would sweat onto his cast.
“I tried to get back down to at least my Combine weight [of 232 pounds],” Thomas said of staying in shape. “I’m pretty satisfied with where I’m at. I want to get down a little bit more just because I want to get even more explosive. I feel very light, I feel very comfortable with my weight. It’s just hard right now just trying to do so much and want to be so active on the court and try to showcase so much at once.”
Thomas looked back on his time with the Pistons and wondered what could have been. He felt extremely comfortable with his situation in Detroit and loved playing for Van Gundy. Guys who have played for Van Gundy are often appreciative of what he is able to teach them. Van Gundy has been praised as a head coach who is able to relate to his players and be honest with them.
Thomas earned his way into camp with the Pistons after a solid showing at the Orlando Summer League last year. In five games for the Pistons, Thomas averaged 8.6 points and four rebounds per game, while shooting 38 percent from three-point range.
“I felt like Detroit was a great spot for me,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, I had an injury that set me back that didn’t allow me to play in preseason and they had to make a decision from there. I felt like I could have contributed and could have been a part of their rotation, especially with some guys going down. Jodie Meeks missed the majority of the year. Guys like Marcus Morris, they moved him down to the four position [and] Tobias Harris played more of the four spot.
“I thought I could be there and just help the wings. I think that’s a good spot for me. I really enjoyed Coach Van Gundy; he’s a great coach. He brought the best out of a lot of his players.”
Among the free agents who worked out at last weekend’s Pro Day, Thomas looked to be among the standouts. He was extremely aggressive in getting to the basket and shot the ball very well. His ability to drop some weight allowed him to flash the quickness teams love to see. He told Basketball Insiders that he is back to 100 percent and ready to compete for a roster spot.
He has worked out for several teams so far, participating in free-agent mini-camps for the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz. He will also be working out in a free-agent mini-camp for the San Antonio Spurs in the coming days as well.
“I’m just ready for the opportunity,” Thomas said. “I was just in Houston; I think I did pretty good there. I got a chance to show myself there. Something this summer will happen for me. I just got to keep it rolling.”
At this point, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before Thomas returns to the NBA. If he can remain healthy through Summer League and training camp, he figures to be a serious threat to earn a roster spot.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN