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vak Djokovic, although the world No 1 is likely to have to get through Nadal in the quarter-finals and Federer in th

BOSTON -- All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas said those who believe the Boston Celtics are better without him dont even believe what theyre saying. New Balance Running Shoes Discount .Thomas, sidelined by a groin injury, wasnt with the team when it posted a lopsided 117-87 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. That led to speculation on Boston sports radio and local TV about whether Boston might be better without Thomas because of the ball movement the team displayed in his absence.Asked if hed heard any of the chatter before Fridays 101-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Thomas downplayed it.Theyre a better team without me. The ball moves better without me. I see it all, Thomas said. They gotta write something. They say the stupidest things so they get the headlines and everybody can talk about it. I cant control that. At this point, I laugh about it now. Because its like, if you really think that, OK, thats fine. I know what I mean to my teammates, I know what I mean to this organization and to (coach) Brad Stevens. The ball moved a little better without me. I guess so.Added Thomas: It is what it is. But people that say that, they dont even believe it. They go home at night, theyre not believing that. Theyre just saying it to get a reaction. Im trying my best not to react. If it was anybody else, we wouldnt be talking about that. Im 5-9, thats the only reason why they say that. Im fine with that. I know what I bring to the table. My teammates know what I bring. As long as they are happy, Im fine. Im not going to react. I try not to. I try to think of what Kobe [Bryant] said: Be a lion. Just lock in and dont worry about what others say.Thomas, who missed his second consecutive game Friday against the Raptors, is hoping to be back on the floor Wednesday when Boston visits the San Antonio Spurs in a national TV game on ESPN.Thomas strained his groin late in the first half of Mondays loss to the Houston Rockets. He flew home to Boston early and received a platelet-rich plasma injection Wednesday. Thomas is hoping to travel with the team on a two-game road trip that starts Sunday in Oklahoma City, even as team decision-makers encourage him to take it slow in his recovery.I want to play but [team brass] keep telling me no, Thomas said. They keep wanting to be very patient with this because they dont want to reinjure it. Its an injury that can get reinjured and be a problem the rest of the season. So I dont want that. And on top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.Asked who might make the final determination about when he can return to action after hes medically cleared, Thomas suggested it was team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.The big dog, Danny, hes really not in favor of [me] going [on the upcoming trip], but Im trying to convince him to just let me go, Thomas said. I think they -- if Im there, they know Im going to try to play. Im shooting for Wednesday for the most part. I think thats more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.Thomas is hopeful the plasma?injection will expedite his return and said Friday was one of the days where its felt its best.Stevens noted that a groin strain can typically sideline a player for 10-14 days, but believes Thomas will be back sooner.Weve talked about Isaiah being pretty ambitious in his return, said Stevens. And hes been getting treatment around the clock, so well see. Hell be officially listed as day-to-day.Added Stevens: Our medical staff is great. ... They feel like hes not looking long term. Its not going to be a long-term [injury], for sure. We have to make sure we dont bring him back [Friday] or too soon so that it doesnt become one. Wholesale New Balance Shoes .com) - Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer were easy first-round winners Tuesday at the Australian Open. New Balance Sneakers Discount . Argentina winger Ezequiel Lavezzi and France midfielder Blaise Matuidi scored, with star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic setting up both despite having a poor game by his high standards. Forward Eduardo gave Ajaccio the lead in the sixth minute after being set up by right winger Benjamin Andre, and the Corsican side looked comfortable in the first half, with the lively Johan Cavalli causing problems with his probing runs from midfield. . Robredo, ranked No. 16, bounced back from an upset loss to Leonardo Mayer in the second round of the Royal Guard Open in Chile last week to down Carreno Busta in 1 hour, 25 minutes. On a day filled mostly with qualifying matches, fifth-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain also entered the second with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 win over Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia, while Guido Pella of Argentina defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 7-6 (6), 6-4 to advance.Andy Murray has a great chance of another Masters final in Rome having been placed in the opposite half of the draw to Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The British No 1, who has dropped to third in the world rankings despite his run to the Madrid final last week, will be seeking a good week to boost his chances of second spot in the seedings for the French Open.So in a tournament where he has never gone beyond the semi-final and with preparations for Roland Garros entering their final stages, we look at who could Murray face as he looks to better last year, where he withdrew before his match with David Goffin in the third round. Second Round beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-3 Third Round - Roberto Bautista Agut Roberto Bautista Agut has two singles tournament victories already this year Bautista Agut is one of six players with multiple titles this year and is up to No 17 in the world rankings, not far off his career best of 14 a couple of years ago.However, after winning in Auckland and Sofia in the first months of the year he has yet to find his best form during the Masters season - losing in the last 32 at Indian Wells and the last 16 in Miami, Monte Carlo and Madrid.Despite his Spanish roots he is more of a hard-court threat than clay specialist and Murray would not expect to have too much trouble having won both of their previous meetings without dropping a set.Quarter-Final - Tomas Berdych Murray could go head-to-head with Tomas Berdych for a second successive week A repeat of last weeks last-eight encounter with the Czech would do very nicely for Murray, who seems to have the world No 8s measure at the moment, winning the last four meetings. Berdych has yet to go beyond the semi-finals of any event this year.Murray was barely troubled last week in Madrid, coming through 6-3 6-2, and we expect more of the same this week provided Beerdych comes through a tough third-rounder against either Jack Sock or David Goffin. Discount New Balance Shoes. Semi-Final - David Ferrer David Ferrer could provide Murrays semi-final opposition Stan Wawrinka is Murrays seeded semi-final opponent and while we cant rule out the Swiss, his form doesnt hint at another last-four spot.So we will go with ninth seed Ferrer to emerge from the quarter to set up a 20th career meeting with Murray, who has a 13-6 record in the head-to-head.Murray has won the last six, including a four-set quarter-final victory at this years Australian Open - however on clay Ferrer has a 4-1 record with Murrays only win coming at the French Open quarter-final last year.The 34-year-old Spaniard showed flashes of his best in Madrid despite a 7-6 7-5 defeat to Tomas Berdych in the last 16 and we think he could make a surprise run to the last four in a weak quarter of the draw. Masters of their trade Djokovic and Nadals duel at the top of the Masters tree Final - Novak DjokovicYep, its him again. It has to be Novak Djokovic, although the world No 1 is likely to have to get through Nadal in the quarter-finals and Federer in the semi-final.As if Djokovic wasnt already in ominous enough form, he has a record 29 Masters titles and is a four-time Rome winner, including each of the last two years.And as we know Murray was beaten in Madrid by Djokovic, a defeat which means the Serb has won their last four meetings and 12 of their 13 encounters since Murrays Wimbledon triumph in 2013.Another worrying trend which Murray must try to buck is that he has yet to win a clay-court encounter between the pair, the Serb has won all five previous meetings on the red dirt, including their one previous Rome meeting, a three-set win for Djokovic on his way to the title in 2011.You can follow all the action from Rome on Sky Sports throughout this week right up to the final on Sunday. 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