Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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Isaiah Thomas has without question been a hit in his two games played for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After having not playing in an NBA game for seventh months as he worked his way back from a torn labrum in his right hip, Thomas’ infusion into the lineup has added an obvious bounce to coach Tyronn Lue’s squad.
However, for Thomas, the hits keep coming… and will keep coming, and every time they do, you can bet everyone who bleeds Wine and Gold collectively holds their breath.
Point of clarification — “hits” refers to the contact the 5-foot-9 Thomas absorbs and every time he hits the hardwood.
In his two games back, Thomas has taken plenty of hits… and he says that’s a good thing, especially since he keeps getting back to his feet, doing so without pain.
“Yeah, because throughout the whole rehabilitation process, you definitely don’t work on contact,” he said when asked about taking the hits. “You don’t work on falling on the ground.
“So the times I fell, it’s been positive, getting right back up and not feeling any pain.”
Which combined with getting his wind back are probably two of the final stages Thomas must experience before he returns to full health and has his full complement of many powers back at his disposal.
“These are all positive steps and getting back to 100 percent,” he said. “And I’m doing everything I can to do that.”
LeBron James has kept a keen eye on the contact Thomas has absorbed and how he’s responded.
“He has no rhythm, obviously,” James said of his fellow All-Star. “He started the game (Saturday night at Orlando) and missed like four or five layups and that’s going to come.
“(The) more and more he gets hit, the more and more he hits the floor and gets up, it will continue to give him more and more confidence.”
Himself being one of the most self-assured, confident guys in the league, James knows just how vital that is.
“That’s what I love to see,” James said of his new starting point guard. “I don’t like him hitting the floor, but, obviously, seeing him get up and taking that type of physicality is very key for his progression.”
With Thomas scoring 17 points in 19 minutes in his Cleveland debut Tuesday night against Portland and then following that up with 19 points in 21 minutes Saturday night at Orlando, James continues to be impressed with the dynamic, left-handed playmaker.
“Once again, he had 19 tonight in 21 minutes…,” James said, shaking his head.
Another Cavalier who has been through the wars and also fought through serious injury is Dwyane Wade.
“He’s just being IT, getting the ball and he shoots, he scores,” Wade said. “That’s Isaiah Thomas. We know he’s on a minutes restriction, so we’re trying as quick as possible to get him back into the game shape, trying to get him used to so many reps.
“There’s going to be times where it’s looks amazing, there’s going to be times where you’re going to see some rust. But we’re trying to fast-track this thing for him. He’s a scorer, man.
“He’s gives our team a totally different dimension.”
With even more hits to come, such as the double-crossover, hesitation move he put on Orlando’s Aaron Gordon for an and-1 opportunity Saturday night. After Thomas crashed to the floor, he sat up, clenched both fists and screamed. It was if he was letting out seven months of frustration all at once.
“That was beautiful,” James said of that play. “He got the and-1 on Aaron Gordon in the fourth quarter.
“It doesn’t matter how tall you are (while) guarding him, he’s going to find a way to get a look.”