CLEVELAND — Before the Celtics faced Golden State on Sunday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said the officials’ reluctance to call a carrying violation makes it especially difficult to defend point guard Isaiah Thomas on screen-and-rolls.
“He’s taken advantage of the new NBA rule of carrying the ball is perfectly legal,” Kerr said, smiling.
Kerr went on to say that Thomas is hardly alone, and that Golden State point guard Stephen Curry is even sometimes guilty of similar techniques. On Tuesday, before the Celtics were destroyed by the Cavaliers, 110-79, Thomas said he was aware of the Warriors’ frustrations about his play, because he has heard them on the court.
“Every time I play Golden State, even when they had [coach] Mark Jackson last year, every time I had the ball, they’re yelling, ‘He’s carrying the ball! He’s carrying the ball!’ ” Thomas said. “That’s probably the one team I hear it from.
“Some [other] coaches do it, but that team does it consistently. I don’t know if they do it to everybody, every point guard, but since I’ve been in the league they’ve been on the refs about me doing it.”
Thomas made it clear that until a referee decides his moves are illegal, he is not overly concerned about what opposing coaches think.
“If they’re not going to call it, I must not be doing something wrong,” he said. “If they call it, I’ve got to make adjustments.”
On Monday, following his first full week with the Celtics, Thomas was named the Eastern Conference’s player of the week. He averaged 22 points and 6.5 assists per game, leading Boston to a 3-1 record. Coach Brad Stevens said it was “unheard of” for a newly acquired player to earn the honor so quickly.
“No. 1 is, he’s had a good impact,” Stevens said. “And No. 2 is, when you win, you get recognized. We’ve said that before. If we’re 1-3 last week, he doesn’t get recognized.”
Thomas said he is thriving because his new coaches and teammates have made the transition seamless since he was acquired from the Suns.
“It’s been a week,” he said, “and I feel like I’ve been here the whole season.”
His new home
After former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins was bought out by the Jazz last month, he quickly narrowed his list of potential suitors to two.
He would either go to the Clippers and be reunited with former Celtics coach Doc Rivers, or he would go to the Cavaliers and be reunited with his former AAU teammate, LeBron James.
Perkins said he was leaning toward the Cavaliers regardless, but a text message from James might have helped finalize his decision.
“Yo Perk, what’s up? It’s Bron,” Perkins recalled James’s text message saying. “It’s been a long time coming.”
“I said, ‘Yeah, I’m on my way.’”
Perkins said because the Cavaliers have a clearer path to the NBA Finals than the Clippers, it made his decision easier.
“It’s been a blessing, man,” Perkins said. “Since I’ve been here they’ve welcomed me with open arms, my family and I, so it’s been good.”
Perkins scored 5 points in 12 minutes Tuesday night.
Forward Kelly Olynyk (ankle) played some three-on-three Tuesday morning and remains close to a return, Stevens said.
“I thought he looked pretty good,” Stevens said. “I can’t imagine it’s long [until his return]. It’s gonna be his call, but he looked good today.”
Olynyk said the process has been frustrating.
“It’s like, you get close, and then you’re at a plateau and then obviously you want to be as good as you can to help your team,” Olynyk said. “It’s tough, because you don’t want to sacrifice your health.”
Stevens said Olynyk was a bit winded after his workout, but that is to be expected. Olynyk has not played since injuring his right ankle in a win over Portland Jan. 22.
“We’re not gonna have time to do a five-on-five in practice to feel good about it,” Stevens said. “We’re gonna have to do it in a game.”