Thomas set for Cavaliers debut vs. Blazers
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CLEVELAND -- Isaiah Thomas' time has finally arrived.
The two-time All-Star point guard will make his Cleveland Cavaliers debut Tuesday when his new team hosts the Portland Trail Blazers.
Thomas, 28, missed the first 36 games of the season recovering from multiple injuries to his right hip. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Thomas would come off the bench and play on a minutes restriction.
Thomas was traded by the Boston Celtics along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and two draft picks to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving in the offseason. The Cavs went 24-12 without him, and they are ready to re-insert a point guard with similar skills to Irving into their lineup with the hope of reaching a fourth consecutive NBA Finals.
"Everybody is excited for him and I'm excited, but it's going to be a process," Lue said. "Getting in shape. Timing. He can't get frustrated thinking it's going to happen overnight. But we're very excited to have him back."
Thomas' last game was May 19, Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cavs. He was third in the NBA in scoring a year ago at 28.9 points per game. He played hurt through the first two rounds of the playoffs, then was furious that Boston traded him.
Though the Cavs' next game after Tuesday is in Boston on Wednesday -- which will be Thomas' first trip to TD Garden since he was traded -- he will not face his old team. Lue said that Thomas would not play on consecutive nights early during his comeback.
The Cavs return to Boston again Feb. 11.
"I know where I am right now, and I wouldn't want to put myself out there to just try to force it," Thomas said. "But I can wait until February. I think we play them in February again, so I can wait and put on a show then.
"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."
Thomas is recovering from a torn labrum and other stress injuries related to his right hip. He tried to force the Cavs to play him last week in Sacramento and was denied.
"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."
The Blazers also are likely getting back their All-Star point guard, Damian Lillard, who missed the past five games with a right hamstring strain. He told NBC Sports Northwest that he could have played Monday against the Bulls and intends to play against the Cavs.
The Blazers beat Chicago 124-120 in overtime Monday. CJ McCollum scored 32 points as Portland halted its two-game slide.
"We needed it," McCollum said on the Blazers' telecast after the win. "A lot of guys stepped up tonight and were ready to play.
McCollum said of the Cavs: "We know they're going to come out with lot of energy, having two days' rest. The NBA didn't do us any favors."
Updated January 1, 2018