When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and a pair of draft picks right before the season, the entire NBA community was caught off guard.
After guiding Boston to a deep playoff run while undergoing a personal tragedy with the death of his younger sister, Thomas found out the hard way that the NBA is a business.
Boston's end of the deal has been extremely productive. Irving is averaging 24.8 points and 4.9 assists per game and has led Boston to a 30-10 start, the best record in the Eastern Conference.
However, Thomas hasn't played yet this season due to a hip issue.
Coming off an amazing campaign in which he averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists for the Celtics, the 5’9” point guard is slated to become a major part of Cleveland’s offense, joining LeBron James and Kevin Love in their quest towards reaching four-straight NBA Finals.
The wait is finally over. On Monday, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue announced that IT will make his debut for the team on Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. He will also be on a strict minutes restriction and will miss the following night’s game against the Celtics.
"It won't be that tough," Thomas said of sitting out the game against Boston. "I know where I am right now and I wouldn't want to put myself out there to just try to force it. But I can wait until February. I think we play them in February again so I can wait and put on a show then.”
Overall, Thomas is extremely excited to get back on the court after a long rehab process.
"It's a blessing," Thomas said. "It's been a long process for me. It's been a frustrating and tough process but at the same time you got to trust it. Each and every day, I just attacked it every day to try to get better and now that day is here. I haven't played in so long so man, it's going to be a weird feeling tomorrow but I'm happy. I'm happy it's here.”
At first, his expectations won’t be extremely high as he is eased back to action.
"I know it's going to take time at first and we got to go through the steps of going out there and playing in the game and figuring those things out but once I get comfortable then all the restrictions got to be off soon," Thomas said.
Coach Lue might be just as excited as Thomas.
"It's great," Lue exclaimed. "(It was) always like, 'Is it going to happen? When is it going to happen?' But now it's finally here and just seeing how he can play with pace and getting into the paint, the speed and quickness and ability to shoot the basketball, it really changes our team. Really excited (in the growth) from Day 1 to now. It's a good moment for us.”
Once he returns to full strength, Thomas will likely be part of a starting lineup that includes LeBron, Love, Crowder and JR Smith. Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose (once healthy) and Tristan Thompson coming off the bench will likely make Cleveland the favorite to win the Eastern Conference crown yet again.