After missing seven months of action and five months after being traded to a new team, Isaiah Thomas finally made his debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Thomas checked in with 4:33 remaining in the first quarter as he received a standing ovation from his teammates and the fans in Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
“It was a special moment,” Thomas said. “I haven’t played in a game, so you would think that I was here for a few years and playing and battling in the finals with this team. It was special, I mean for even my family to be here. My wife and kids to see that, that’s genuine love right there and I appreciate the fans patiently waiting and giving the love they did tonight.”
It appeared Thomas’ presence was worth the wait because he came out pushing the tempo from the moment he entered the game. He ultimately ended up with 17 points and three assists in 19 minutes of playing time.
“He is a scorer,” Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade said in an ESPN postgame interview. “All the eyes are on him when you’re on the floor, so it allows guys to just be free, make cuts, get him the ball let him be I.T. and as he gets in shape more and more, it adds a different dynamic to our team that we haven’t seen and that we’re all excited about coming into this new year.”
After the Cavaliers 127-110 victory over the Portland Trailblazers, Thomas won’t play in the team’s first game in Boston this season because he hasn’t been cleared to play in back-to-backs yet.
Considering the team’s age, it’s a big if, but if the Cavaliers can find themselves with a healthy roster in April heading into the playoffs, then they should breeze once again through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Perhaps one of the biggest problems for the Cavaliers during last year’s finals was that they only had one, on some nights two, options to close out games. With Thomas, Wade, and LeBron James in the fold, Cleveland now has three options to turn to when in need of a bucket in big games.
The more healthy the Cavaliers are, the more competitive the finals will be, and a healthy Boston Celtics team, will lead to an even more competitive Eastern Conference finals.