CLEVELAND – The agonizing wait to play again is over for Isaiah Thomas. Vengeance on the Celtics is still on hold.
Thomas, sidelined with a hip injury since last season's Eastern Conference finals, will make his debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers.
After months of rehab, the All-Star point guard will take the floor for the first time with the Cavaliers, who acquired him last summer in the blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics.
“It's been a long process for me,” Thomas said Monday following practice. “It's been a frustrating and tough process, but at the same time you got to trust it. 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.”
Coach Tyronn Lue said Thomas will come off the bench and initially play limited minutes. Also, he will not play in back-to-back games as he builds up strength, which means he won't face the Celtics on Wednesday in Boston.
Thomas was deeply hurt by Boston's decision to trade him, and he would like nothing more than to show his former team what it gave up. However, as much as Thomas would like to play against the Celtics, he knows the smarter move is to put his health first.
“It won't be that tough,” he said about sitting out the second meeting this season between the rivals. “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.”
The Cavaliers and Celtics will square off on Feb. 11.
Thomas has slowly worked his way into game shape, scrimmaging first against the G-League Canton Charge and then with his teammates a few days ago. While he's in good physical shape, his game still needs some conditioning.
“My hip is better, but I have no rhythm,” he said. “I have no feel for the game right now. ”
PORTLAND 124, CHICAGO 120: In Chicago, C.J. McCollum scored 25 of his 32 points after halftime, including the tiebreaking basket with 56.5 seconds remaining in overtime, and the Trail Blazers beat the Bulls.
Al-Farouq Aminu added a season-high 24 points and Evan Turner also had his season best with 22 for Portland, which was without leading scorer Damian Lillard for a fifth straight game.
Kris Dunn scored 22 points and Nikola Mirotic had 18 points off the bench for Chicago, which blew a late lead for a second straight game. The Bulls lost for only the fourth time in 14 games since Mirotic returned to the lineup after suffering facial injuries following a dispute with teammate Bobby Portis.
Former Notre Dame standout Pat Connaughton had 16 points for Portland.