INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — With every passing day, Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas feels more like himself.
“I’m getting stronger,” he said.
The All-Star point guard, acquired from the Celtics this summer, has made progress with his hip injury, and the Cavaliers expect him to be playing games by January.
After doing little for months because of a torn right labrum that knocked him out of the playoffs for Boston in last season’s Eastern Conference finals against Cleveland, Thomas has increased his physical activity to the point that he’s running and shooting.
“Physically I’m in a good place. I’m making progress every day,” he said. “These last three weeks, I’ve been able to be with this training staff six days a week and focused on getting my strength back in that muscle.”
There were concerns that Thomas, who was acquired in a blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving, would be out much longer, and even some speculation that he might miss the entire season.
However, Cleveland’s training staff has been encouraged by how far Thomas has come in a short period, and the Cavaliers believe he could be back in their lineup before the end of the year.
“It’s great news,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “Just seeing the way he’s progressed over the course of these last few weeks. Any time you can implement a guy who was I think fifth in the MVP voting and averaged 29 points a game, he’s an All-Star. Any time you can get a guy like that back into your fold it’s a great opportunity.”
Until Thomas is healthy, Derrick Rose will start at point guard. The Cavs have been thrilled in what they’ve seen from Rose, who has slimmed down to take some stress off his troublesome knees.
Thomas averaged 28.9 points last season for the Celtics, who sent him along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft to Cleveland. The Cavaliers were worried about Thomas’ injury, and held up the trade before the Celtics added a second-round pick to complete the deal.
When they introduced Thomas at a news conference, the Cavaliers were vague about a timeline for his return, mainly because they hadn’t yet worked with him. Now, they think he could be back when they play at Golden State on Christmas.
Thomas is only under contract for the upcoming season and has said he wants a maximum contract.
“I think what I’ve done has solidified who I am as a player,” he said. “What’s most important is me getting healthy and being 100 percent. When I got traded to the Cavs they were like: ‘Slow down. We want to make sure this is right.’ My mindset is to get healthy and get 100 percent, and then when it comes to basketball, I know what I can bring. I don’t think there’s any more proving.”
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