CLEVELAND -- It has long been said that good things come to those who wait, and that “good thing” for guard Isaiah Thomas is getting to make his regular-season debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers after missing 36 games because of a hip injury that has been affecting him since last March.
Thomas will come off the bench tonight against the Portland Trailblazers at Quicken Loans Arena as the Cavaliers (24-12) look to snap a three-game losing streak overall, as well as a three-game skid against Western Conference foes.
“It's a blessing for me,” Thomas said after Monday's practice. “It's been a long process. It's been a frustrating and tough process, but at the same time, you've got to trust it. Each and every day, I just attacked it to try to get better, and now, that day is here. I haven't played in so long, so it's going to be a weird feeling, but I'm happy. I'm happy it's here.”
An All-NBA performer for the Boston Celtics last season, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Thomas had proven remarkably durable throughout his NBA career until experiencing the hip issue.
Prior to this year, Thomas, who was acquired along with Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder and draft compensation from the Celtics in exchange for Kyrie Irving, had missed more than 10 games only once since his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings.
“I never took the game for granted,” Thomas said. “I was always one that just wanted to be the best I possibly could be, get everything out of this game I possibly could, but I mean, for being 28 years old, this being the first time I've ever really been 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.”
Because Thomas will be on a minutes restriction against Portland and will not play in back-to-back games until he gets more time on the court, his focus at the outset is to regain the rhythm that allowed him to average a career-best 28.9 points along with 5.9 assists per game for the Celtics last year.
“I have no feel for the game right now,” Thomas said. “I've been out for so long, it feels like I've 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.
“With the games coming, it's got to give me an opportunity to get my rhythm back, get my feel back, and it might take some time, but at the same time, the progress that I've made is all good and positive progress, and I'm excited about the opportunity to be able to get out there and compete.”
Because of the restrictions on back-to-back games, Thomas will miss Wednesday's matchup against the Celtics in Boston, but he has much bigger goals in mind for the remainder of the season.
“I'm focusing on the Cleveland Cavaliers and trying to win a championship,” Thomas said.