INDEPENDENCE (92.3 the Fan) – The slow grind just got a little bit quicker.
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas will play for his new team Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena against the Portland Trailblazers, the first time in NBA action since being dealt by the Boston Celtics in August.
The All-Star will be on a minutes restriction and will not play in back-to-backs for the immediate future, Head Coach Tyronn Lue said Monday, ruling Thomas out against his former team on Wednesday. Lue was unwilling to disclose what the minutes limit would be.
Thomas will not start on Tuesday either, allowing him to receive his own individual ovation from the Q faithful.
The track back fully will take some time, as the team ramps the point guard’s workload back up. He was a full go at practice Monday afternoon, working through his standard shooting and drills before running 5-on-5.
Without a full workload, and even with one eventually, Thomas admittedly will take a while to get back to his standards. He said those standards are nowhere close at the moment.
“I mean my hip is better, but I have no rhythm, I have no feel for the game right now,” he said. “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 called the opportunity to return to the floor a ‘blessing,’ but said that he has never taken the game he loves for granted.
He has never had to debate whether or not he had, because he has never missed more than 15 games in a season. Now he has missed the first 36 contests of 2017.
“For being 28 years old, this being the first time I’ve ever really been hurt and having to sit down, it will make you appreciate it even more,” he said. “And I definitely don’t take it for granted, and this made me a better basketball player and a better person mentally and physically so, it should be something special, 2018.”
Because he has been so limited for so long, Thomas had not gotten the opportunity to work on any of the team’s sets until Monday, which will further complicate his comeback.
The 28-year-old called himself a student of the game and noted that he watches film ‘probably more than anybody,’ which would make it seem like things will come relatively simply to him.
Lue said he and his staff will still try to ease their studious point guard in.
“It’s different when you’re playing in a game and things are going full speed, the pick and roll coverage, and you’ve got to know your plays,” Lue said. “It’s going to take some time and we understand that, so we have to do a good job of keeping it as simple as possible for him right now until he becomes more comfortable.”
Lue also said that he expects the Q to be electric in anticipation of Thomas’s return. Thomas himself said he has gotten nothing but love from his newest fans.
“I mean they’ve just been patient along with me,” he said. “It’s been positive. Positive feedback, positive love since I’ve been here, ever since I stepped foot in Cleveland. It’s been all genuine love. It’s crazy because I haven’t even played yet. I haven’t even really put on a jersey, so, to continue to get that type of love when I haven’t really given the city anything but some workouts on my own.
“I’m just ready to put the grind forward and give the fans what they want to see and make this season something special.”