From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- All-Star Blake Griffin said Tuesday his left knee is healed after last month's surgery that forced him to miss the London Olympics, when he worked on his shot and free throws while his U.S. teammates were winning a gold medal.Griffin is doing drills and running this week as he continues rehabbing from the July 16 surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear of his knee that he suffered during practice with the U.S. national team in Las Vegas."I'm doing all my normal movements," he said. "I feel like I'm at 100 percent."The latest knee injury had nothing to do with the stress fracture of his left patella and surgery that forced him to miss the 2009-10 season.It's been a busy summer for Griffin. In addition to being with the national team until his injury and then his surgery, he signed a five-year contract extension in July that could be worth up to 95 million.After he got hurt, Griffin didn't watch any of the team's exhibition games, calling it "a little too fresh and a little too painful."But once the Olympics began, he watched his former U.S. teammates during their run to the gold medal."It was just good to see those guys get what they deserved and see how hard everybody worked from the time we got together to the end," he said.Griffin used his downtime "trying to become a more complete player, working on my shot and working on free throws," he said. "Those are two things that I was able to work on a lot even if it was stationary."The Clippers kept busy this summer, re-signing Chauncey Billups and bringing Lamar Odom back to the franchise in a deal with Dallas. They also landed free agents Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Willie Green, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins."This is a great place to play and guys want to come here," Griffin said. "The fact that we've had guys toward the end of their careers, guys like Grant Hill, that chose to play here, I think that says a lot about our team and the direction we're heading in. It's great to be a part of something that has kind of turned the corner."Last season the Clippers got swept by San Antonio in four games in the second round of the playoffs after having the best regular-season winning percentage in franchise history."We laid the foundation," Griffin said. "This year we want to take a step forward and I think the pieces that we've added, the guys we have returning and the work guys have put in this offseason has been tremendous. We look to take that next step as a franchise."The Clippers' co-tenant at Staples Center pulled off its own big deals, adding Steve Nash from Phoenix and Dwight Howard from Orlando."It's great for LA, it's great for basketball," Griffin said. "It's going to bring a lot of excitement, but they still have to play just like everybody else."Griffin said he spoke on Monday to gold medal-winning teammate Chris Paul, who plans to return to Los Angeles next week to recuperate from the surgery he had last week to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.Griffin endorsed Gary Sacks, the Clippers' director of player personnel, to replace Neil Olshey as the team's general manager. Olshey left to take on the same role in Portland."If he doesn't get the GM job I'll be shocked and definitely a little disappointed because he deserves it and I think everybody else thinks he deserves it," Griffin said. "I hope that it's going to be him."Griffin interacted with fans during an appearance at a West Los Angeles Subway restaurant, where he assembled a turkey sandwich and helped give away prizes to mark the chain's 47th anniversary.
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WALTHAM, Mass. – As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.
There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.
The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.
But that’s not all.
He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.
Since NBA.com/stats began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.
What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.
Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.
“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”
Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.
Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.
And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.
Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.
- 2016: James Harden (7.7)
- 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
- 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
- 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
- 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
- 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
- 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
- 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
- 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
- 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)
You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.
As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.
But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.
“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”
And for opponents, a lot of problems.
“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”