INDEPENDENCE, OHIO - It took all of one question in Isaiah Thomas' introductory press conference with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the elephant in the room to be acknowledged.
And it took just a few answers from Cavs general manager Koby Altman for the same elephant to double in size.
"We're not gonna rush it," Altman asserted when asked about the hip injury that brought Thomas' 2017 postseason run with the Boston Celtics to an end. Pushed on the hip injury just a few questions later, Altman then added, "If we're gonna talk about Isaiah, let's talk about Isaiah the All-Star."
The room full of reporters would have loved to have done just that, the only problem being nobody seems to know when Thomas will be ready to suit up for his new team. Details from the Cavs were sparse as Altman did his best to deflect any inquiries, although he did reveal that the team's plan of action in Thomas' rehab is a "non-surgical" one, while head coach Tyronn Lue let it slip that the 2-time All-Star won't be ready for the start of the regular season.
"Our responsibility is to get him to 100 percent," Altman said of Thomas, who suffered a torn labrum in his hip at some point last spring.
The fact that he's not there yet -- and seemingly won't be for some time -- is potentially problematic for the Cavs, considering Thomas was the centerpiece of a trade that sent a 25-year-old franchise player in Kyrie Irving to their Eastern Conference rival. For all the talk about the Brooklyn Nets' unprotected first-round pick and the advanced analytics on Jae Crowder, Thomas is the player who is supposed to help make up for the loss of Irving as Cleveland attempts to topple the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
But with Thomas sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Cavs will now be forced to rely on veterans Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon, who each signed minimum contracts with Cleveland this past offseason. Even once Thomas does return -- whenever that might be -- a learning curve will undoubtedly exist as he attempts to assert his playing style alongside LeBron James'.
If there was a sliver of silver lining to be found in Independence on Thursday, it was Altman stating that the goal was to have Thomas ready to play at some point this season. When he does return to the court, it remains to be seen whether or not he'll regain his All-NBA second-team form from a season ago, although the 5-foot-9 point guard doesn't seem concerned with overcoming another obstacle.
"That's just been my story," Thomas said.
What may be the next part of Thomas' underdog journey, however, has now turned into a potential hurdle for the Eastern Conference favorite.
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