CLEVELAND—Once Isaiah Thomas slipped on his jersey and headband those familiar, warm feelings washed over him.His agonizing wait is almost over.After seven months away, countless days of rehab and wonder if he would play again, Thomas was again on an NBA court Thursday night. And although he only took part in the pregame layup lane, it was more than enough.
”It was everything,” he said. ”I felt like a basketball player again.”
Thomas dressed for the first time since coming to Cleveland in a trade and cheered from the bench on as LeBron James scored 34 points to lead the Cavaliers to their 12th straight home game, 115-112 over the Bulls.Kevin Love added 27 to help the Cavs improve to 19-2 since Nov. 11.But the biggest development for Cleveland was Thomas, who moved even closer to making his debut with the Cavs after injuring his right hip in the playoffs last May while with Boston. Earlier in the day, Thomas scrimmaged with the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ G-League affiliate, before coming to Quicken Loans Arena. Thomas then put on his uniform, joined his teammates in their pregame prayer and took the floor for a warmup he won’t forget.
”It just felt like I was a rookie again, like my first game,” Thomas said. ”I haven’t been in an arena like that where you’re warming up, you’re with teammates, that’s so new right now. I’ve been down since May so just being out there put a smile on my face.”
Thomas won’t play in Cleveland’s next game – a Christmas Day marquee matchup with Golden State – but the Cavs won’t be without the All-Star point guard much longer. Thomas said his workout with Canton went well, and he’ll wait for Cleveland’s medical staff to clear him to play in a game.Thomas said facing the Warriors was never his goal.
”No, that was a target for my kids,” he said. ”So they mad, but I’m fine with it. I have no rhythm, so there is no way I can play in an actual game right now and be very effective like I’m used to being. Slowly that will come back and I’ll get a feel for it. I also gotta get in some shape. That was probably the toughest part today, the going up and down constantly, being a little winded.”
Dwyane Wade had three steals and two blocks in the fourth quarter for Cleveland, which improved to 3-0 against the Bulls this season