Isaiah Thomas Won’t Need Surgery to Repair Hip Injury

The hip injury that forced Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas to miss the final three games of the Eastern Conference Finals will not require surgery. 

Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, announced Wednesday that surgery has been ruled out for Thomas.

“Isaiah is making good progress,” Ainge said, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “He’s out on the court; he’s shooting. He’s full-speed ahead on the stationary bike and working in the swimming pool. He’s progressing nicely.”

Following Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics announced Thomas would miss the rest of the postseason with a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear. 

Thomas originally injured his hip during a March 15 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves that forced him to miss Boston’s next two games. 

Ainge told reporters on June 23 surgery hadn’t been ruled out for Thomas, but that the guard would be expected back for training camp even if he had to undergo a procedure to correct the injury. 

With Thomas avoiding surgery, the Celtics’ expectations in the Eastern Conference next season continue to rise. They led the conference with a 53-29 record last season and added Gordon Hayward in free agency. 

Thomas set career highs in scoring (28.9) and field goal percentage (46.3), and tied his career high with a 37.9 three point percentage for the Celtics last season. 

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Bucks’ Greg Monroe, John Henson Rumored to Be on Trade Block

Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times reported Tuesday that the Milwaukee Bucks are shopping centers Greg Monroe and John Henson on the trade market.

Both players had down years in 2016-17, and have seen their usage and production drop in recent seasons.

        

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Carmelo Anthony Reportedly Prefers Rockets Trade to Cavs, Any Other Destination

As the New York Knicks continue to search for a trade involving Carmelo Anthony, the 10-time All-Star would prefer a deal to the Houston Rockets

ESPN.com’s Ian Begley reported “landing in Houston remained his [Anthony’s] top priority over all other potential destinations, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.”

The Rockets have reportedly been atop Anthony’s wish list throughout this offseason.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on July 17 that Anthony was “counting on the franchise to carry out its previously agreed upon mandate to trade him” to the Rockets. 

Wojnarowski previously noted Anthony would be willing to waive his no-trade clause for the Rockets or Cavaliers

However, according to Begley’s report, Anthony’s desire to play for the Rockets makes it difficult for the Cavs to pull off a deal because the “best offer the Knicks can make in a trade for [Kyrie] Irving is a package centered around Anthony.”

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Tuesday that Anthony has made it his “primary objective” to end up with the Rockets, and Anthony’s camp remains “optimistic” about a deal with Houston coming together.

The Rockets have already made one of the biggest splashes this offseason, acquiring Chris Paul in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, and they already have NBA MVP runner-up James Harden on the roster.

Anthony has one more guaranteed year left on his contract and a player option for the 2018-19 season

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Whatever Happened to O.J. Mayo? Not Even Some of His Closest Friends Know

With the exception of a TMZ airport ambush and a handful of Instagram posts from the other side of the world, NBA fans haven’t heard a word from O.J. Mayo since last July, when the league announced his dismissal for an unspecified violation of its anti-drug program.

One year later, it seems no one in or around the NBA has heard from him, either.

That’s the takeaway from 10 months of reporting, in which attempts to reach nearly 40 of Mayo’s former teammates, coaches, agents, GMs and players union reps turned up little more than a parade of no comments—when they responded at all. Most of our dozens of calls, emails and Twitter messages were never returned.

While frustrating, the lack of replies—let alone answers—was in itself illuminating. It spoke to the strange cloud that has hovered over Mayo’s public life since long before he made it to the NBA. The product of a difficult upbringing, Mayo seemed to have a knack for finding—or putting—himself in difficult situations. His prep career featured stops at three high schools in three states, and though he was cleared, he saw that span tainted by allegations ranging from drug possession to assaulting a referee. His sole season at USC is remembered less for his first-team All-Pac 10 performance than for the murky recruitment process that eventually handcuffed the Trojans with self-imposed sanctions.

The No. 3 pick in the 2008 NBA draft, Mayo started every game for the Memphis Grizzlies his first season and averaged 18.5 points per contest, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting. It would be his best year as a pro: He put up comparable numbers in his second season but was relegated to the bench for most of his last two years in Memphis. That time included a 10-day suspension after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. He later blamed it on an energy drink he bought at a gas station.

From there, he spent a season in Dallas that began with promise but ended with a thud and followed it with another free-agent move to Milwaukee, where he spent three relatively quiet years with the Bucks.

In 2015-16, he battled a variety of injuries and played just 41 games; when the offseason arrived, he was an eight-year journeyman coming off a career-worst season—but also just 28 years old and a career 13.8 points-per-game scorer capable of playing either guard spot in a pinch.

With a record free-agent season about to get underway, it was hardly absurd to think that some team looking for backcourt depth might hand Mayo a contract at least on par with, say, the three-year, $27-million deal that his draft classmate Jerryd Bayless earned from the Philadelphia Sixers.

And then, on July 1, 2016, he was gone.

Per league and National Basketball Players Association rules, the official statement was vague about the violation but specific about the punishment: Mayo was “dismissed and disqualified” from the NBA, and eligible to apply for reinstatement after two years. What was clear was that this wasn’t a case of accidentally ingesting a PED or getting caught with a joint; by definition, a suspension of that magnitude could only come from testing positive for “drugs of abuse,” anything from cocaine to opiates.

Anyone expecting an explanation from Mayo—a televised mea culpa, a first-person essay, even just a press release—quickly realized there would be no such thing. Six weeks went by without a word, the silence finally broken in a brief encounter with a TMZ cameraman at LAX. Asked whether he was appealing the suspension, Mayo smiled and said either “it’s in the works” or “it didn’t work.” A year later, the difference seems irrelevant, the outcome the same.

The extent of his public utterances since has been a handful of Instagram posts, most recently those from a New Year’s trip to Africa: In one, he wears what appear to be tribal robes at the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya; in two others, he’s sitting on a rocky outcropping atop South Africa’s Table Mountain, with tiny buildings below and the South Atlantic reaching out to the horizon in the distance. That was mid-January. He hasn’t posted since.

All of this would be strange enough if Mayo were only keeping a low public profile; the fact that even recent teammates don’t have a clue what he’s up to is something else entirely. Michael Carter-Williams spent a season-and-a-half with Mayo in Milwaukee, including the 2015-16 campaign. When I caught up with him in Chicago this spring, I asked Carter-Williams if he’d spoken with his fellow former Buck. “I haven’t,” he said. “I haven’t even heard anything.”

When the same question was posed to Gerald Henderson, who crossed paths with Mayo on the AAU and USA Basketball circuits in high school, he flashed me a dubious look, grabbed my media credential and asked who I worked for. (This seemed less an implied threat than genuine surprise that a credentialed media member was trying to track down this story.)

Mayo’s college coach, Tim Floyd, sent a very polite text explaining that he would pass on an interview request. And multiple messages left with Mayo’s agency, Landmark Sports—run by Rob Pelinka until his recent move to the Lakers front office—went unreturned. As of this July, Mayo’s name and photo were still included on the client list on the agency’s website.

From these interactions and from the silence of a few dozen “no comments” and non-replies, the implication was clear: The basketball world doesn’t know what’s going on with Mayo, nor is it particularly interested in trying to find out. With his present a mystery and his basketball future in serious doubt, his past was the one thing it seemed possible to understand.


I have a clear memory of the first time I saw O.J. Mayo on television. It was the winter of 2002, and I was in Philadelphia for Slam magazine to cover LeBron James and his St. Vincent-St. Mary squad. Flipping through the channels at my hotel that night, I caught a short segment on one of the cable news channels asking whether a kid starring for a small high school in Kentucky might be “the next LeBron.” That kid was Mayo. He was in seventh grade.

We met a year or so later, by which time Mayo was settled with his childhood friend Bill Walker at North College Hill High School outside Cincinnati. A native of Huntington, West Virginia, Mayo had first found fame as a middle schooler at Rose Hill Christian School, about 15 miles northwest in Ashland, Kentucky. The move to North College Hill was aimed at furthering his (and Walker’s) basketball development.

I remember being struck by Mayo’s intelligence—not just that he was smart but inquisitively so. You don’t expect star high school athletes to be actively curious, but Mayo was, asking me what I thought made Kobe Bryant tick and pressing me for a scouting report on a Chicago point guard in his class named Derrick Rose, whom he’d heard about but hadn’t yet faced on the court. He smiled easily. He was a likable, even charming, kid.

Still, the vibe around him was hard to read. Over those two days in Cincinnati, I only briefly met Mayo’s mother, Alisha, who seemed shy and not interested in talking to a reporter. Then there was Dwaine Barnes, the man Mayo called his grandfather, though they weren’t related; it was Barnes who coached Mayo and Walker on his D1 Greyhounds AAU team and who was reportedly Mayo’s legal guardian. Barnes didn’t do interviews.

Mayo’s father, Kenny Ziegler, was himself a former basketball star in Huntington and along with Barnes was instrumental in his son’s move to Ohio. But Ziegler was barely present: He had spent much of his adult life in and out of jail on drug and weapons charges, and in 2012, he would be sentenced to 130 months in federal prison [1] [2].

This was the foundation on which O.J. Mayo was trying to build his future.

On the court, that process seemed to be going just fine. Playing together in the summers and during the high school season, he and Walker were a daunting tandem. Where Walker’s game was a carbon copy of a young Vince Carter, Mayo at his best was somewhere between Jason Kidd and his role model, Kobe—a savvy, intensely competitive guard who could score or create with equal effectiveness. A pair of Ohio Mr. Basketball awards as a sophomore and junior seemed to confirm that potential—and made the “next LeBron” comparisons of a few years earlier seem prescient.

Mayo’s budding reputation brought with it a budding confidence. As the only high schooler among a crew of college counselors at Michael Jordan’s Flight School, he was matched up on the recently retired legend in a pickup game and decided to verbally engage. Jordan responded to Mayo’s impudence by dominating him the rest of the way. The script was flipped at the 2005 ABCD Camp, where a Brooklyn eighth-grader named Lance Stephenson challenged Mayo, then the camp’s most prominent player. Mayo owned the matchup from that point on, jawing at both his opponent and a sizable contingent of Brooklyn-based Stephenson supporters in the stands as he drained a flurry of jumpers in Stephenson’s face.

And then, unexpectedly, Mayo went back home, choosing to play his senior year at Huntington High School. Playing alongside big man Patrick Patterson, Mayo eventually led his hometown program to a West Virginia state title. But that dream ending to his prep career was not without its blemishes. Midway through the season, he was ejected from a game and, in the process of arguing the call, bumped and appeared to knock down the official. Video of the incident showed that the referee in question appeared to exaggerate the contact and had taken a dive, but Mayo nonetheless served a three-game suspension.

Two months later, and barely a week before the state title game, Mayo was in a car with a couple of childhood friends when they were pulled over by police; marijuana was found in the car. Mayo was cleared when one of the other passengers claimed the drugs, but as he finished a long, fascinating high school playing career, it was hard for many to shake the sense that he was a young man always on the verge of trouble.

Four months later, I drove a rental car down the 10 Freeway in Los Angeles as Mayo, in the passenger seat, tried to offer perspective for his choices and own up to his mistakes. We had connected this time for a Slam cover story timed with his arrival in Los Angeles. There was a photo shoot with a rented Bentley in front of the Shrine Auditorium, with a cover line that read “The Fresh Prince of L.A.”

Among the decisions Mayo tried to explain that day was the one that brought him to USC, whose coaches hadn’t seriously planned to recruit him until Mayo contacted them. It was a strange, perhaps unprecedented situation for a player ranked among the best in his class, but he justified it convincingly: Why wouldn’t a kid from small-town, rundown West Virginia want to go to Hollywood? Why wouldn’t a guy who so admired Bryant’s game and mindset want a chance to develop in his shadow?

“A lot of people who went to SC didn’t play ball—people who do films, lawyers and doctors, people who do things in real estate and business,” he said at the time. “There’s a lot of people that make things happen out here.”

One such person was Rodney Guillory, a local tournament promoter whose affiliation with player agents had already run him afoul of the NCAA. Guillory had gotten tight with Mayo over the previous few years, and he was Mayo’s only connection to Los Angeles. Later, when Mayo’s brief college career was over and USC was forced to vacate the wins he was largely responsible for, it was Guillory who was implicated as the villain, the guy running the cash and gifts between Mayo and prospective agents.

In the meantime, there was one impressive season of college ball, in which Mayo averaged 20.7 points per game and made the All-Pac 10 first team alongside fellow freshmen Kevin Love and James Harden. His season ended with a first-round NCAA tournament loss to a Kansas State team led by Michael Beasley and Mayo’s old running mate Bill Walker. And then, inevitably, Mayo was off to the draft, leaving the Trojans to sort out the mess.

Minnesota chose Mayo third overall in June 2008 behind Rose and Beasley, and just ahead of the UCLA tandem of Russell Westbrook and Love—for whom Mayo was immediately traded to Memphis. The Grizzlies initially appeared to have gotten the better of the deal: Mayo averaged 18 points per contest over his first two seasons, starting every game. But as the team increasingly built around Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, Mayo’s role was diminished; in his fourth season, he didn’t start a single game.

His 2012 free-agent move to Dallas seemed to make sense for all involved, particularly in a season that would see Dirk Nowitzki miss 29 games due to injury. Mayo was terrific in the season’s opening weeks, averaging nearly 21 points a game and hitting better than 50 percent from three. Rick Carlisle, the Mavs‘ famously hard-to-please head coach, had nothing but praise for his new addition. “He listens, he learns, he watches film, and when he gets challenged, he responds,” Carlisle told me then. “We’re still early in our relationship, but we really like him.”

It didn’t last. Mayo’s production dropped in the second half of the season, and things bottomed out that April in a home loss to the Grizzlies. Carlisle grew so frustrated with Mayo’s apparent lack of effort against his old team that he screamed for a timeout for the sole purpose of pulling him out. “He didn’t compete tonight,” Carlisle told a group of reporters afterward. “For him to show up like he did, I was shocked.”

His welcome in Dallas quickly worn out, Mayo once again went the free-agent route and signed a three-year deal with Milwaukee. He spent three mostly quiet seasons as a part-time starter with the Bucks, averaging 10.6 points per game and largely existing out of the spotlight. He missed most of the first month of the 2015-16 season with a hamstring injury; then in March, he went down with an ankle injury that, according to the official Bucks press release, occurred when he “tripped descending his stairs at home.” He underwent season-ending surgery that month. He hasn’t been seen on a basketball court since.


In nearly a year of asking questions—about why OJ was suspended, what he’s up to and whether we might ever see him play basketball again—the closest we got to an answer came from Arkell Bruce. Now the head coach at powerhouse Huntington Prep, Bruce was an assistant at Huntington High—and Mayo’s personal basketball trainer—when Mayo returned for his senior year. More to the point, Bruce said, “I’ve known him his whole life. He’s like family.”

Ten years Mayo’s senior, Bruce is a product of the same neighborhood, the same community: He counts Walker as a cousin, says Mayo’s’ mother is “like a big sister to me” and coached O.J.’s younger brother, Todd, in AAU ball. When we spoke last fall, Bruce said he hadn’t heard from Mayo since the suspension was announced—”I’m out of the loop, pretty much,” he said—and he was reluctant to speculate. But he wanted to say something.

“He needed the right people around him growing up,” Bruce said. “O.J. was basically abused growing up—not physically, but… people just took advantage.”

It’s just one perspective, a voice amplified by the silence that surrounds it. But others saw it, too. In 2008, as his time at USC wrapped up and the recruiting scandal was emerging, a columnist for the hometown Herald-Dispatch, Chuck Landon, wrote empathetically about Mayo, defending not his decisions, but the motivations of a kid who had grown up “hungry for a father figure. Hungry for a positive male role model. Hungry for a dad.”

For those who cared to pay attention, the conflict was never hard to see, nor was it terribly unique: A child in a man’s body, blessed with physical talent and a sharp mind, surrounded by all the usual traps of those growing up poor and black in America. A kid with a rare ticket out, held back by a lifetime of bad examples and a knack for self-sabotage.

When I spoke to Bruce, I mentioned how I’d always been struck by how smart Mayo was and wondered if that intelligence ever worked against him. “I know what you mean—like he’s too smart for his own good. In a sense, yeah,” Bruce said. “He’s very smart, and he’s surrounded himself with a lot of the wrong people, just kind of yes-men. He’s gonna do what he wants.”

I asked if he thought Mayo had anyone with pure intentions looking out for him today.

“No,” he said. “No. He’s stubborn. He’s hard to look after.”

We’re no longer talking about a child, of course. O.J. Mayo will be 30 in November. He will have earned about $45 million in eight NBA seasons. At this point, there is no measure by which he is not an adult, responsible for his choices, good and bad. The stakes now go beyond trivialities like academic eligibility and mere reputation. This is about his career. His life.

Thinking about all this brought me back to something Mayo said 10 years ago, on that summer afternoon in Los Angeles. “What’s the average time you live on earth—like 60, 65 years?” he asked. “Basketball’s gonna take up half of it. I’d like to be successful in the other half, too.”

Presumably it’s not too late.

                                    

Ryan Jones is a writer living in Pennsylvania. He’s the former editor-in-chief of Slam magazine and has written about sports and culture for XXL, Spin, Vibe and Esquire.com. Reach him on Twitter @thefarmerjones.

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Kyrie Irving Reportedly Requested Trade After Conversations with Church Pastor

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving reportedly requested a trade following conversations with pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong Church, according to TMZ Sports.

The report noted that Irving and Lentz have been close for a long time and that Lentz urged Irving to make the decision he was most comfortable with.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst was the first to report that Irving asked for a trade due largely to his desire to part ways with LeBron James.

TMZ Sports noted that his relationship with James was among the things Irving discussed with Lentz.

Per Windhorst, Irving has interest in getting traded to the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves or Miami Heat.

The combination of Irving and James has led the Cavs to three consecutive NBA Finals, including the organization’s first championship in 2016 after beating the Golden State Warriors in seven games.

Irving is also coming off his best statistical season, as he averaged 25.2 points per game during the regular season and 25.9 points per contest in the playoffs.

The 25-year-old superstar is under contract for two more seasons and can opt out of his deal prior to the 2019-20 campaign.

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Why LeBron James Comes Out a Winner in Kyrie Irving Trade Debacle

The full list of winners and losers borne by Kyrie Irving‘s desire to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers is a long way from being decided. Even if the team fulfills his request, how the Cavs fare without him, what they get in return and what Irving does with his next team will take months, maybe even years, to play out.

There is one name, though, already on the winners’ side of the ledger: LeBron James.    

Up until last Friday, when ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, citing anonymous sources, reported Irving had told owner Dan Gilbert he wanted out of Cleveland, the crosshairs of nationwide conversation had been on James and his rumored interest in leaving the franchise next summer. The consensus among several league executives contacted by B/R was that James will indeed opt out of his contract and head elsewhere, most likely to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers, to develop his post-career interest in Hollywood’s TV and film industry.

The focus was on how James’ intentions were impacting the Cavs’ attempts to add talent, how the psyche of the team might be affected during the season with its biggest star having one foot out the door and what such a move—his second exodus from his hometown team—would do to James’ legacy.

All that has taken a backseat to the drama surrounding Irving. Now it’s Irving who is having his character questioned for wanting to leave a team that has gone to three consecutive Finals and won a championship. Now speculation concerns how the Cavs should deal with Irving’s disaffection, not James’.

According to Windhorst, while Irving informed several teammates of his request, James was not one of them, and that LeBron was blindsided by the idea that Irving was unhappy. Just like the midseason firing of David Blatt two years ago and the dismissal of David Griffin this summer, James and/or sources close to him have disavowed he had any knowledge or influence on the decision.

While it’s hard to believe in those instances that a player with James’ prestige and strong opinions wouldn’t at least be informed, the idea that Irving would tell both owner Dan Gilbert and teammates several weeks ago he wanted out and James would be kept in the dark is even harder to fathom. Especially since an ESPN report also said Irving considered making his request a year ago, shortly after the Cavs claimed their lone title. Is it really conceivable Irving could’ve been that frustrated for that long and James would be completely unaware of it?

No wonder those around Irving suspect someone in James’ camp was the source who leaked Irving’s trade request, as ESPN also has reported. Who benefits from that becoming public knowledge? Not Irving, for obvious reasons. Not the Cavs, since they’ve already had to deal with several negative developments this summer.

First, it was Griffin, who presided over the achievements of the last three years, not being retained. Then it was Chauncey Billups, despite having no prior front-office experience, turning down a five-year offer to be team president. And, of course, the rumors of James’ uncertain future in Cleveland—rumors that, unlike other speculation concerning him, he has yet to deny or address via social media or anywhere else.

The Cavs also undoubtedly would have preferred to work on moving Irving without the other 29 teams knowing they have to or risk having an unhappy star the entire season.

So there’s only one person helped by the news about Irving: James. Not only does this report shift the spotlight off his desire to leave, it offers one more potential reason why he’d want to go.

James denied a report by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that he is unhappy with Irving’s request and “would be tempted to beat his ass,” given the opportunity. James responded on Twitter:

A league source familiar with James’ mindset told B/R that, as of Monday, the news that Irving would like to leave has provided a welcome boost of motivation, not only for James, but for the entire Cavaliers organization. It is motivation for James to prove he can win without Irving, and motivation for the Cavs that might have been waning after losing two of three times to the Golden State Warriors, who then added to their arsenal via free agency. Irving has provided both a reason and a means to add fresh, hungry talent to a core that has stayed intact for the last three years.

And don’t miss this part of James’ tweet about Smith’s report: “#EnjoyingMySummer.”

There were plenty of reasons for that not to be the case in June and early July. But now that all the attention is on Irving, it makes perfect sense.

        

Ric Bucher is a senior NBA writer for Bleacher Report.

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Video: James Harden, Chris Paul Play for 1st Time as Rockets Teammates

A video posted on Instagram early Wednesday morning showed James Harden and Chris Paul playing a pickup game together for the first time since CP3 was dealt to the Houston Rockets.

You Ball Training released the video featuring Harden and Paul playing on the same team:

Per TMZ Sports, Rockets teammate Trevor Ariza and free-agent center JaVale McGee also took part in the game.

    

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available. 

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