Isaiah Thomas recently provided some insight into his thoughts and feelings about how he's being used in Phoenix, and his thoughts on the team. Here's what he had to say.

Earlier today, David Aldridge posted an article on NBA.com that included a Q&A with Phoenix Suns point guard Isaiah Thomas, about a myriad of topics including his decision to sign with the team this summer, and how his role on the team has unfolded so far, versus his expectations.

While Thomas has already indicated in the past his desire to start, which has led to some fans and analysts questioning whether or not he can ever truly be happy in a back-up role here in Phoenix, his answers in this article further indicate that he expected to play big minutes on the Suns team, and that things may not have played out exactly as he anticipated when signing the four-year, $27 million contract this past July.

Within this latest article, there are three questions and answers specifically that really stand out above the rest, and provide a great deal of insight about Isaiah's expectations and current level of happiness on this Suns' team.

Here is the first:

David Aldridge asks Isaiah, "With the way Goran and Eric played here last year, why did you think you'd find enough minutes in Phoenix?"

Isaiah's response was:

"I really went home, talked to my family, prayed on it. I really tried to envision how it would really work, 'cause it didn't make sense. But when they put it on paper and they told me I was going to be a big part of what they do here, I believed them. I felt like they were genuine. And we've had ups and downs this season, but at the end of the day we're trying to do the best we can to make it work. And if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. We tried. But we're doing the best we can to make it work and we're doing the best we can for this team."

At first glance, this seems troubling.  Especially because of how he's referring to his belief of the Suns genuine plan to include him as part of their big plan is mentioned in the past tense.

How much better would this have sounded if Isaiah simply changed his answer to the present tense?  But alas, he did not.  So we're left to speculate on whether he was simply relaying his original feelings from when this all occurred, or if he is providing his reasons for signing which no longer apply.

Fortunately though, Aldridge doesn't leave it at that, he presses on. He then asks, "How many times have the three of you been on the floor at the same time?".  To which Isaiah replies:

"Last two games. Before that, it would be stretches where it would be two or three minutes here or there. But not as much as I envisioned. When I signed here I thought we'd be playing a lot together. Maybe that changes. The last two games, we're on a two-game winning streak (three after winning in Washington Sunday night), Coach has changed it up a little bit to where we're ending the game together, the last seven or eight minutes of the game, we're all playing together. Hopefully that happens a lot more, 'cause I do feel like we could use that to our advantage, and it could work."

At the beginning of this quote, once again, things sound a little bleak.  Isaiah mentions that the when he signed here he thought they would be playing a lot together...meaning the three point guards.  That hasn't necessarily been the case throughout the beginning of the season, when Thomas was used more in a back-up role, and played mostly opposite of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.

However, this has changed recently.  As Isaiah noted, the Suns have been finishing games with the three-guard lineup recently, including all three of these last road games, which they also won...leading to their second longest winning streak of the season thus far.

He then ends this answer with a bit more positive, upbeat response...mentioning that he thinks the Suns' three-guard lineup can work.

Finally, Aldridge asks Isaiah about the team in general, and what he thinks the Suns need to do to win more games.  To this, Isaiah answers:

"I think we've got to become a more consistent team, first and foremost. Every night, we've got to bring it. We've got to know that even with the great teams, and the not-so-great teams, we've got to play one way at all times. We've had a couple of tough losses this year that we thought we should have won, but that's behind us. It's going to be ups and downs, but in that Western Conference, there's no room for error. There's no room for slippage. You lose a few, somebody wins a few, you drop a lot. We know how close it is in the playoff race. We've got to really buckle down, lock it in. We know that every game really counts."

I thought it was important to share this quote as well, to point out that Isaiah isn't simply complaining about his minutes or talking about himself.  He does want what's best for the team, and he want to win.

But I know that these quotes will rub some, or maybe many the wrong way.

These quotes certainly indicate that Thomas wants, and expects to play big minutes.  And while I'm not sure of what the Suns initially told him when persuading him to sign here, it is clear from his answers that he never expected to be a bench player, or even a sixth man for this team...he expected to receive an equal share of the minutes, split three ways.

So is he completely off-base?

Well, maybe not.  I was personally in attendance at the Isaiah Thomas introductory press conference when Suns GM Ryan McDonough and Coach Jeff Hornacek fielded questions about their plans for Isaiah in the Suns line-up.

At the time, there was uncertainty surrounding Bledsoe and whether or not he would re-sign with Phoenix.  However, even then, he was mentioned as a part of the Suns' long-term plans, as Hornacek mentioned that he wanted to use the three point guards in a "two at all times" rotation, meaning that only one of Bledsoe, Dragic, and Thomas would be off the court at any given time during the game.

That wasn't how things initially began though, with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic leading the first unit and Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green leading the second unit off the bench.  This probably wasn't at all what Isaiah expected, as I'm fairly sure he was also given the same impression as the media shortly after he signed...which is that he wouldn't be a bench player, but a crucial component of a deadly, non-stop, three-guard rotation that would have each of them averaging 32 minutes per game.

So can you really blame Isaiah for feeling a little disappointed with how things have played out so far?

In my opinion, this isn't Isaiah complaining, as much as it is him answering questions honestly about his reasons for agreeing to sign with the Suns this off-season, and his disappointment in the Suns start to the season.

So no, I don't really think Isaiah is unhappy in Phoenix...he just wants to win, and wants to help the team in doing so.

Furthermore, I mostly agree with him.  I think the Suns have found a winning formula with the three guard line-up, and playing them together at the end of the game has yielded very positive results thus far.  I also share Isaiah's optimism that the three guards can play together, help the Suns win, and coexist on the same team.  The Suns are actually 12-7 when all three guards have played together, and only 3-7 when either Isaiah or Dragic sat out.

I definitely don't think Isaiah Thomas is part of the problem...in fact, I think he will become a big part of the solution once the team finally develops some chemistry together now that everyone is healthy.

Still not convinced that Isaiah is happy in Phoenix?

When Isaiah was asked about Sacramento, he said, "At the end of the day, I'm fine with it. They're happy with what they've got, and I'm happy with the situation I'm in."

And there it is.

The coaching staff has been experimenting with a lot of different rotations so far, but at least for now, they seem to have found the right mix...One that Isaiah is a key ingredient of.

The question is, what happens next?

In four games against the Thunder, Bucks, Hornets and Knicks, Isaiah Thomas averaged 17.8 points and 3.0 assists off the bench. Is that enough to justify him as player of the week?

First of all, keep in mind that the new week started yesterday, so the game against the Washington Wizards did not affect my choice for player of the week.

Now, let's focus on this week. I'm assuming that this is going to be my most controversial pick to date. After all, Thomas is widely regarded among posters here as a cancer and a ball hog, who is damaging team chemistry as well as preventing Dragic from fulfilling his true potential.

On the other hand, Thomas was also brought in (on an exceptionally friendly contract, I might add) to score. And right now, he leads the Suns with 22.7 points per 36 minutes, while neither Dragic nor Bledsoe top 18.

Thomas got off to a slow start in his first couple games back from injury, but since then I believe it's fair to say that he has flourished. He posted a combined 65 points off the bench in three games against the Bucks, Hornets and Knicks this week, and overall averaged 17.8 points on 48% shooting from the field and 50% shooting from three-point range.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Suns won two of those three 20+ point performances. The only loss, which you all can thank Khris Middleton for, can hardly be blamed on Thomas, who shot 6-12 from the field and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Thomas was not extraordinary, but nobody was this week. Bledsoe averaged 15.8 points per game on just 41% shooting from the field, with his best game coming against the Knicks. Dragic didn't even play against the Thunder or Bucks. While Markieff Morris was great against Milwaukee and New York, he was ejected against Charlotte and sat due to foul trouble in Oklahoma City. And Alex Len took the starting center spot over Plumlee, but he is still a work in progress.

Overall, the Suns are now 8-1 when Thomas scores at least 20 points, and the team's average point differential in those games is 9.9.

When Thomas scores less than 15, the Suns are 3-6 with an average point differential of -6.2.

So, is he still a cancer? Should we still trade him for a big man? Does it matter if he's a "chucker" if it helps the team win? And do you feel the same way about Thomas' chucking as you do about Gerald Green's?

Feel free to answer any of those questions in the comments section below. Also, make sure to vote on the poll.

Whether you like him or not, here are his early season highlights.

Poll
Who is your player of the week?

  35 votes | Results

People haven't seen much of Suns rookie Zoran Dragic, who has spent nearly the entire season on the inactive list except for that two-minute cameo in mop-up duty against the Clippers.

      
 
 

The Detroit Pistons have waived Josh Smith. Should the Phoenix Suns make a move?

Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith has been the subject of much - until now - rhetorical debate among Phoenix Suns fans.  Would he fit in the offense?  Would he play defense?  Is he a bad character guy?  What would it cost to get him?

Well, now it's a very real conversation.  According to a statement put out by the Detroit Pistons today, Josh Smith has been released.

In 28 games for Detroit, he's put up 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in 32 minutes, which is a little under his career numbers, but given the discord in Detroit, that's not surprising.  Maybe a change of scenery would help?

What do you think, Bright Side?  Josh Smith is could be available for pennies on the dollar and no outgoing assets.  Should Lon Babby and Ryan McDonough make a bid?

Note: A team can make a waiver claim on Smith but would assume his salary which is $13.5m for the rest of this season plus the next two. If he clears waivers, which is most likely, he will be a free agent. The only team with enough cap space to claim Smith off waivers are the 76ers.

Poll
Should the Phoenix Suns attempt to acquire Josh Smith via waivers?

  551 votes | Results

The Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics should complete a no-brainer trade next month that is nearly salary-neutral and improves both teams.

NBA trading season is underway, with a few teams already executing some common sense transactions to help their causes. Western Conference playoff-caliber teams Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets have acquired pieces to make them even stronger (Rajon Rondo and Corey Brewer, respectively) from rebuilding teams who want future considerations such as draft picks and/or youth.

Other teams will soon follow at some point between now and the February 19 deadline for in-season trades. The Phoenix Suns have not made any deals since last year (not counting the Isaiah Thomas sign-and-trade which was done for cap purposes only, after Thomas agreed to a free agent deal with the Suns), but could be in the market for a change in the coming weeks.

The Phoenix Suns have struggled out of the gate, putting together a pedestrian 15-14 record despite playing more than half their games against Eastern Conference fodder. The three-headed-monster experiment of Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe has been hit and miss, more often creating frustration than wins because all of them want the ball in their hands.

The most reasonable move for the Suns would be to use one of their point guards in a trade to improve their talent in other areas. Of the three, one could surmise the Suns would be most willing to part with Isaiah Thomas. Eric Bledsoe is a two-way player who can dominate on either end of the court on a given night and Goran Dragic is the biggest of the three and can play either position.

Thomas, meanwhile, has proven to be strictly a point guard and has the least tenure on the team. His contract is extremely reasonable ($6.5 million per year on average) for a guy who just produced 20 points and 6 assists a night on 34 minutes last year, but is a backup on the Suns struggling to earn more than 24 minutes a night.

Enter Danny Ainge, GM and President of the Boston Celtics.

Let's connect the dots.

Friends

General Managers Danny Ainge (Boston) and Ryan McDonough (Phoenix) worked together for nearly a decade in Boston before McDonough took over the reins in Phoenix last summer.

Trade-happy

Ainge has a penchant for making trades, including sending Rondo to the Mavericks last week, and McDonough has followed his mentor's suit with four trades in his first six months as GM of the Suns.

Celtics need a pure point guard

Ideally, the Celtics would have a young, already-developed point guard around whom to grow their team now and in the future while they fight back to playoff contention.

While the Celtics just acquired Jameer Nelson to replace Rajon Rondo in the trade with the Mavericks, Nelson doesn't want to lead a rebuilding squad or he would have stayed in Orlando. Expect Nelson to be released or traded in the coming weeks to a playoff contender.

Rookie Marcus Smart is talented, but not quite ready to captain the ship this season as a point guard.

Celtics and Suns still acquiring movable parts

While they try to win games this year, the primary focus of the Celtics is to position themselves for major improvement in the coming years. That includes youth, movable contracts and salary cap space. Ainge has facilitated a lot of movement on the roster in the past year as the Celtics build up their trove of assets.

The Suns, meanwhile, DO want to win this season but won't mortgage the future to do so. They are not interested in acquiring short term fixes while giving up great assets to do so.

Suns need to get Dragic back to point guard

The Suns, meanwhile, need to find more PG minutes for their best playmaker, Goran Dragic. Right now, he's forced to play shooting guard because he's the biggest (at 6'3") of the three-headed-monster and most willing to play off the ball.

But the Suns are better with Dragic and Bledsoe sharing the PG duties for most of the game, and they have their own PG rookie, Tyler Ennis, to fill in backup minutes as needed.

Suns need more perimeter defensive help

While Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker can defend the perimeter, one of Dragic or Gerald Green is always having to check a highly talented shooting guard on the opposing team. This breaks down the Suns D, and allows a lot of drives to the rim that puts the Suns D in a precarious position.

Suns need reliable, veteran rim protection

While Miles Plumlee and Alex Len are providing good defense on most nights, either or both have bad nights on the regular. Both are only in their first or second real season of playing time and have not yet figured out how to be consistent every game. Shavlik Randolph is a hustle player but is not a rim protector.

Trade Proposal

This trade I propose won't solve everyone's problems. It won't make the Celtics a playoff contender nor will it dramatically improve their rebuild, and it won't necessarily make the Suns one either.

But this trade will help balance each team's roster just a little bit more while they work toward bigger deals.

Suns trade Miles Plumlee, Anthony Tolliver and Isaiah Thomas to Celtics for Avery Bradley and Brandon Wright


Contract details

  • Bradley: 4 years, $32 million, through 2018
  • Wright: 1 year, $5 million
  • Thomas: 4 years, $27 million, through 2018
  • Plumlee: $1.1 million this year, 3rd year of rookie deal

Why the Celtics make the trade

The Celtics move some more moving parts, but these parts fit better. They turn defense-first Avery Bradley into a score-first point guard Isaiah Thomas, who would be a much better fit next to big combo guard Marcus Smart for the coming future. Their contracts are close - both 4 years, with Bradley getting $32 million through 2018 vs. Thomas' $27 through 2018.

Thomas, 25, is only a year older than Bradley, 24, and Thomas has recently revealed Boston GM Ainge was the first person to call him on July 1 to express interest as a free agent. Now Thomas would be able to play 35 minutes a night on a team in real need of his scoring and distributing.

The Celtics swap newly-acquired Brandon Wright for Miles Plumlee. Plumlee, 26, is a year younger than Wright, 27, and on an extremely cheap contract (third year of rookie deal) for the next two years. Plumlee protects the rim, albeit inconsistently, and just put up 8 points and 8 rebounds a night last season.

Tolliver is included for salary matching, as the Celtics are still over the cap and luxury tax line. His contract is nearly expiring (only $400,000 guaranteed for 2015-16), so he comes off the books just like Wright.

Why the Suns make the trade

Swapping Isaiah Thomas for Avery Bradley balances the Suns back court better. Bradley can play mostly two-guard and provide solid perimeter defense while Dragic can move back to sharing point guard 50% of the time with Bledsoe. Bradley can also share the court with Bledsoe, forming one of the best defensive perimeter duos in the game. Put P.J. Tucker on the small forward, and the Suns could truly trot out a lock down perimeter. Bradley would also be helpful next to defensively-challenged Tyler Ennis. Bradley is young and on a cap-friendly, tradable deal ($8 million per year, 4 years, beginning in 2015) as well.

Bradley is also one of those guards that former Celtics Asst-GM Ryan McDonough pushed the Celtics to draft in 2011. Bradley cannot be traded until January 15 because of his rookie extension and the fact that the Celtics are over the cap (weird CBA rule), and his contract for "trade purposes" would be an average of this year's salary and the future contract (often called the 'poison pill' rule). Hence the need to include Tolliver in the trade for salary matching purposes.

Brandon Wright, an 8-year veteran whose $5 million contract expires this summer), can provide veteran rim protection at the center position. He's only 6'9" but his arms are long and he's highly productive, putting up 9 points, 4 rebounds and a block in 18 minutes per game the last two years in Dallas. He is also a highly efficient inside scorer and pick-and-roll finisher, and rarely gets himself into foul trouble. Wright can spell Alex Len at center, and fill in for long minutes on nights the 21-year old Len isn't providing much value.

Summary

This trade a nearly neutral swap of contracts and positions, but the net result is that both teams get just a little bit more of what they really need.

Poll
Would you make this trade?

  2929 votes | Results

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