Isaiah Thomas comes back to Cavalier lineup

Isaiah Thomas comes back to Cavalier lineup
January 11
01:02 2018

Early on in this NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers players did not seem to be on the same page as the team limped out of the gates.  Since then, the Cavs have seemed to gel as a unit and now sit in the Number Three seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 25-13.  With the return of Isaiah Thomas from injury, the Cavs look like a different team than they did two months ago.

Thomas returned from injury last week in the Cavs game versus the Portland Trailblazers.  He came off the bench and scored 17 points on 6 of 12 from the field in only 19 minutes of playing time.  He looked as though he has been ready to play, but Cleveland was being cautious with his return.

Many people, including myself, thought the Boston Celtics got the better of the off season trade with the Cavaliers because of the hip injury Thomas sustained during last season’s playoffs.  I was not anticipating he would return to the lineup and be the same player he was.  It looks as though I was mistaken.

Even though Boston only received Kyrie Irving in the trade versus the Cavs receiving Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2020, I still felt the injury to Thomas negated the remaining pieces of the trade. 

Last season, the Cavs seemed to stall on offense when Lebron James went to the bench.  That looked even more glaring at the beginning of the season without Irving but the Cavs have been able to right the ship as of lately.  The return of Thomas could be that missing link for the final few months of the season as Cleveland tries to make a push for that coveted Number One seen in the east.

Take Thomas’ first game back against the Blazers, for instance.  While James was off the floor, the Cavs outscored Portland 31-13, which is a welcomed sign for Cleveland fans everywhere.  If that trend continues throughout the rest of the season, James will not have to play as many minutes as he is now.

On the other hand, so far this year Kyrie Irving has the Boston Celtics on top of the Eastern Conference, 4.5 games ahead of the Cavs at the time this article was written.  Irving is averaging 25 points and five assists as the lead guy for the Celtics.

Unfortunately, the Cavaliers decided to sit Thomas the next night following his return, so we were unable to see him play against his old team.  The Celtics dismantled the Cavs en route to a 102-88 victory last Wednesday night, Jan. 3.  I’m sure everyone would have loved to see how the teams matched up with Thomas in the lineup.

I don’t think many were expecting the Celtics to still hold the Number One slot in the east after the devastating leg injury Gordon Heyward sustained in the opening game of the season. 

Not to dismiss the Number Two seed in the east, which is the Toronto Raptors, but I fully expect this to be a two-team race going down the stretch.  We all know now that James puts it on cruise control for some parts of the season to have some left in the tank for the playoff run.

With Thomas coming off the bench, I don’t think that is an accurate depiction of how things will go when he returns to the starting lineup.  He and James will have to learn how to coexist on the floor at the same time for long stretches, and for two ball-dominate players, I am not sure how that will work out.

We have seen how hard it is to have multiple ball-dominate players coming together to play for the first time this season.  The Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Carmelo Anthony and Paul George in the off season to partner with Russell Westbrook. 

The Thunder have taken their lumps trying to figure out the pecking order so far this season, but currently sit in the Number Five slot out west.  It takes time for talent to mesh, and I expect there will be some growing pains for the Thomas and James pairing.

On the bright side, I don’t think James and Thomas will have as much trouble figuring out things as the Thunder have because of the high basketball IQ of James coupled with Thomas’ hunger to prove the Celtics made the wrong move in trading him away.

If things unfold the way I anticipate, this will be an intriguing eastern conference finals between the two teams.  This year Lebron is playing better than ever and seems to defy father time but the Cavs are the oldest team in the league.  The Celtics, on the other hand, are young and hungry, with some playoff experience.

I can’t wait to see a fully healthy Thomas and the Cavs against the Celtics in a seven game series. It should be a good one.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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