Isaiah Thomas back! After missing the first 36 games of the season recovering from a hip injury, the wee scoring machine will make his Cleveland Cavaliers debut tonight, against the Portland Trail Blazers*. To be honest, I’d nearly forgotten him.
The Cavaliers, after a rough start—let’s agree on not making too much of the winless three-game western road trip they just completed—have been fine. They’re 24-12, third in the East but still its unofficial shadow leader, Caesar returning to Rome but not quite inside the city limits yet. LeBron James has dragged so many bumbling, unsightly scrap-heap squads through so many seasons that it’s been easy to forget that, properly speaking, this isn’t just another iteration of that routine—that these Cavs aren’t supposed to be starting José frickin’ Calderón at point guard. They have been doing that, of course, but it’s because they have been missing one of the NBA’s best players! The uncontainable little dude who averaged 29 a game for the East’s top seed just last season!
Well, maybe not quite that guy, at least not right away. Thomas might be rusty from the time off; he definitely will be on a tight minutes restriction for at least a little while. Barring the first major injury of LeBron’s career, the Cavs could moonwalk to homecourt advantage in the first round entirely without Thomas, which means they’ll likely do everything they can to safeguard his health for the playoffs. There are other caveats, which you already know about. He’s still tiny, he’s a year older, he’s on a new team, and he’ll have to figure out how to make his game fit with LeBron’s. It’ll be weird at first, and possibly for a bit longer than that.
But still. I’m pumped!!! Probably because this season has been pretty butt so far and I’m grasping for any reason to look forward to the inevitable-seeming Cavs-Warriors re-re-re-rematch in the Finals, and to imagine that the outcome of that Finals series is not also inevitable!!!! But still!!!!!!!!!!