Isaiah Thomas wasn’t exactly thrilled when the Celtics traded him to the Cavaliers back in August. After spending the beginning of his NBA career with the Kings and Suns, he really made a name for himself in Boston and gave the city everything he had. So when Celtics team president Danny Ainge turned around and traded him in a deal that helped Boston land Kyrie Irving, Thomas was understandably upset.
Thomas has managed to move on, though, and on Tuesday night, he made his season debut for the Cavaliers in a game against the Trail Blazers. Thomas missed the team’s first 36 games of the season due to a lingering hip injury, but he showed plenty of signs of life against Portland. He scored 17 points in just 19 minutes of action, and after the game, he told reporters he felt "like a damn rookie" when he saw the reaction he got from his teammates after assembling his solid stat line. Thomas also talked about what it was like to play for the Cavaliers for the first time.
"It was a special night for me," he said, according to ESPN. "I haven’t played in seven months, so to be able to be out there and compete against another team was special. Obviously to get the win was even bigger but just to be able to compete and be out there in a game setting, it was a great feeling for myself."
Thomas spoke about the reaction he received from the Cavaliers fans as well. He checked into the game for the first time with about 4 minutes remaining in the first quarter and got a standing ovation from those at Quicken Loans Arena. He appreciated the gesture on the part of the Cleveland faithful.
"It was a special moment," he said. "I haven’t played in a game, and you would think I was here for a few years and playing and battling in Finals with this team, but it was special for my family to be here, my wife and kids to see that, that’s genuine love right there and I appreciate them patiently waiting and giving me the love they did tonight."
Thomas admitted that, while his hip feels much better and he’s happy with the way he played on Tuesday, he still has a long way to go before he’s fully back to form. He told reporters he still has "no rhythm" on the court. "I just don’t have my powers yet," he said.
Thomas is also going to be restricted by a minutes limit that will keep him off the court for long stretches of time. It will prevent him from playing against the Celtics in his first return to Boston on Wednesday night. But after just 19 minutes of action, Thomas’ new teammate LeBron James said he’s already excited by what Thomas is going to bring to the Cavaliers.
"He’s very good, very good," LeBron said after the Cavaliers beat the Blazers 127-110. "Very dynamic. Can shoot the pill. Can get in the lane. Can pass the ball. He’s going to just create so much for our team."
Thomas will likely return to the court for his second game with the Cavaliers this weekend when they travel to Orlando to take on the Magic. In the meantime, Thomas is just happy to get one game under his wings with the team.
If he continues to progress and play as well as he did on Tuesday, this really is "only the beginning" for his Cavaliers’ tenure.