Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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A little Isaiah Thomas is better than no Isaiah Thomas.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will experience that for the first time Tuesday night when the two-time All-Star point guard makes his Cleveland debut against the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena as our own Sam Amico reported earlier.
Though the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Thomas will be on a minutes restriction, he admits, he cannot wait to get back into the fray for the first time with his new team.
“It’s a blessing,” Thomas said. “It’s been a long process for me. It’s been a frustrating and tough process but at the same time, you got to trust it. Each and every day, I just attacked it every day to try to get better and now that day is here.
“I haven’t played in so long so, man, it’s going to be a weird feeling tomorrow but I’m happy. I’m happy it’s here.”
Thomas, acquired by the Cavaliers (24-12) along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first-round draft pick and Miami’s second-round choice in 2020 from Boston in exchange for fellow All-Star Kyrie Irving, will not play in back-to-back games as his return tips off.
‘This made me a better basketball player, a better person mentally and physically. So, it should be something special in 2018’ — Isaiah Thomas
Ironically, Cleveland plays against Thomas’ former team, the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics (30-10), in the place he formerly called home, TD Garden, on Wednesday night. Thomas will not play in that game.
“I know it’s going to take time at first and we got to go through the steps of going out there and playing in the game and figuring those things out but once I get comfortable then all the restrictions got to be off soon,” Thomas said.
After en route to leading the Eastern Conference in scoring (28.9) last season, Thomas first injured his right hip in March. Then, in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers in May, he reaggravated it, forcing him to miss the last three games of the series, won by the Cavaliers, 4-1.
The injury was diagnosed as a torn labrum in his right hip. Thomas opted not to have surgery, deciding to rehabilitate it. It was a long, sometimes-frustrating road back for him and he is aware it will take some time to get his wind, timing and rhythm back.
“I mean, my hip is better but I have no rhythm,” Thomas said. “I have no feel for the game right now. I’ve been out for so long, it feels like I lost my powers. So even when we’re out there scrimmaging I can move around and do what I want, but I just don’t have my powers yet.”
Thomas said it will not be difficult for him to not play in Boston on Wednesday night in what is sure to be an emotionally charged atmosphere. The Cavaliers and Celtics will play on more time this season — Feb. 11 — in Boston.
“It won’t be that tough,” Thomas said of not facing the Celtics on Wednesday. “I know where I am right now and I wouldn’t want to put myself out there to just try to force it.
“But I can wait until February. I think we play them in February again, so I can wait and put on a show then.”
Thomas not playing won’t stop his former team from recognizing him, though. The Celtics will all but assuredly pay tribute to him with some type of video.
“I know it will be all love,” Thomas said. “I keep saying that I gave that city everything I had and they showed me genuine love back and I think that love is going to last forever. So, there’s no hard feelings. This ain’t no revenge game. They know what they gave up. They knew what they got. It’s all good.
“I’m focused on the Cleveland Cavaliers and trying to win a championship.”
Despite being out of action for seven months, Thomas remains upbeat. In fact, he’s counting his blessings.
“I never took the game for granted,” Thomas said. “I was always one that just wanted to be the best I possibly could. Get everything out of this game I possibly could. But, I mean, for being 28 years old and this being the first time I’ve ever been really hurt and had to sit down, it made you appreciate it even more and I definitely don’t take it for granted.
“This made me a better basketball player, a better person mentally and physically. So, it should be something special in 2018.”