Hip surgery has been ruled out for Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said on Wednesday.
Ainge said that Thomas, who severely aggravated an injury to his right hip during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, has resumed light on-court work and has been ramping up his cardiovascular training off the court.
“Isaiah is making good progress,” Ainge said. “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.”
Thomas originally injured the hip during the third quarter of the March 15 game against the Timberwolves and missed the next two games. The two-time All-Star aggravated the injury in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Wizards, yet pushed on. But following the Game 2 loss to Cleveland a week later, the pain was simply too severe for him to continue.
As the Celtics made another big splash this summer, signing the All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and drafting Duke’s Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick, some of the enthusiasm was tempered with uneasiness about Thomas’s condition.
He was evaluated by several hip specialists, and for weeks the Celtics ominously declared that he had to wait for swelling to subside before deciding on a course of action. But barring any further setbacks, it has now been determined that surgery will not be needed. Thomas is on course to rejoin the team at the start of training camp this fall.
Last week, the Celtics signed veteran point guard Shane Larkin to a one-year deal, and the move was viewed as a possible sign that Boston was forming a backup plan in case Thomas was not ready to return.
But Ainge said the addition of Larkin was unrelated to Thomas and his health.
“This in and of itself is just an opportunity to take a look at a really terrific player on a good contract for us to get a chance to see,” Ainge said.
Money well spent
By signing Larkin, the Celtics are in position to enter camp with 16 guaranteed contracts. That number will need to be whittled to 15 by the start of the regular season, but it has become a familiar approach for the franchise.
Boston had 16 players on guaranteed deals in training camp two seasons ago before Perry Jones III was waived. The Celtics had 16 guaranteed contracts last year, too, as James Young ultimately beat out R.J. Hunter for the final roster spot.
“It’s not ideal, because some guaranteed money gets thrown out,” Ainge said. “But I think it gives us an opportunity to have competition, but also see more players we’ve followed and watched and looked at. And it’s another good indication that ownership is really willing to spend money to give us these luxuries, these opportunities to see more players. It speaks a lot to them as much as anything.”
Last season, Larkin averaged 13.6 points, 5.3 assists, and 3 rebounds per game for the Spanish club Baskonia, which competes in the Euroleague. The 5-foot-11-inch point guard was selected with the 18th pick of the 2013 draft and averaged 5.8 points and 3.2 assists over three NBA seasons with the Mavericks, Knicks, and Nets.
“Shane, we felt like, was one of the best players in Europe this year,” Ainge said. “He’s really improved his playmaking abilities and we thought he had a terrific year. He has great speed and he’s a terrific shooter. We think he’s a better shooter than his numbers indicate. So we just really like his speed and his ability to get into the paint.”
The Celtics last week officially signed German forward Daniel Theis. The 25-year-old averaged 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 61.8 percent from the floor for the Euroleague team Brose Bamberg last season.
“He’s at a good age,” Ainge said. “He’s 25 years old, he’s coming off three good years in Germany. He’s a tough kid. He’s got good athleticism. He can make a 3-point shot and he’s a versatile kid. He’s just a good, athletic, hard-playing kid.”
Ainge said that Celtics lead video coordinator Brandon Bailey has been promoted to head coach of the team’s D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
“Brandon is a guy that Brad [Stevens] has leaned heavily on the last couple years,” Ainge said. “He’s been in the video room and done a lot of scouting of the teams in our league and spent a lot of time on the court with some of our younger players. I think he’s earned this opportunity. This is a great opportunity. The D-League is becoming more and more important with more players under contract with us, and that head coaching experience is invaluable. I think Brad just believes in Brandon in having this opportunity to grow as a coach.”
Former Red Claws coach Scott Morrison, meanwhile, has joined the Celtics’ staff as an assistant.
“We think he’s done a terrific job,” Ainge said. “He’s excited to join the Celtics’ staff. Scott’s had head coaching experience prior, but he did a terrific job for us in Portland and we value that a great deal.”
Ainge said the Celtics remain in contract discussions with 2017 second-round draft pick Jabari Bird, who could be a candidate to receive the team’s final “two-way” deal. That would lead Bird to join the Red Claws for most of the season while being eligible to spend up to 45 days with the Celtics.