“I tried to do that in Sac,” Thomas revealed before the Cavs practiced Friday at St. Helena High School in Napa Valley, Calif. “It didn’t work. So, I thought I could do that. I tried it in Sac and they shut me down, and I was upset about it, but I mean they’re looking out for what’s best. Not just for this team, but for myself; and not just this season, but my career. So I can’t thank them enough for putting me in that position.”
While Thomas sat out Wednesday against the Kings, he was active on Friday, participating in a full-court scrimmage against his Cavs teammates for the first time since the point guard was acquired in a trade from the Boston Celtics for Kyrie Irving over the summer.
Thomas was ruled out of Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz by Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. However, his recent performance was encouraging for a Cleveland team that has suddenly lost three of its past four games coming off a streak in which it had won 18 of 19.
“We want him back,” Lue said. “We need him back. We need a guy who can run pick-and-roll, can score the basketball, can get to the free throw line, can play with pace, can get into the paint. We need that. We’re excited about him. He’s very close. I understand how it feels to want to play, and the medical staff is saying he just needs a little bit more time. He has to be patient, I have to be patient, the players have to be patient.
“After seeing him today, they were excited. But they’ve got to be patient and stay the course. His time is coming soon. But don’t think for one second we don’t want him out there. That’s stupid. We want him out there.”
The Cavs’ next game following their road trip is Tuesday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers. Thomas has not been ruled out of that game, and Cleveland will hold another scrimmage at practice on New Years’ Day to get Thomas some more reps.
“We’ll get another good scrimmage for him and play and see how he plays, see how he recovers today after the scrimmage, see if there’s any soreness or anything,” Lue said. “But for the most part, he looked good.”
No matter how well Thomas looks, the odds of him playing against the Celtics on Wednesday at Boston’s TD Garden are long. For one, Lue said he will hold Thomas to playing only one leg of back-to-backs when he makes his return. So, if Thomas plays against Portland, he will automatically be out against the Celtics. Also, Thomas will be on a minute restriction whenever he returns, multiple sources told ESPN. And from the sound of it, Thomas has no interest in playing the Celtics at anything less than 100 percent.
“I don’t want to play just to be out there, so, I don’t know. … That minute restriction, that would be tough to play in Boston on a minute restriction,” Thomas said.
While LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert and Derrick Rose were held out of the scrimmage and the team was returning from an off day in Napa Valley that included wine tasting at a handful of vineyards, Lue was pleased by his team’s effort on Friday.
“The crazy part about it, it’s probably one of the best practices we’ve had all year, energy-wise, and guys wanting to do it,” Lue said. “It was really a good practice. When we said we was going to scrimmage for Isaiah, the guys perked up and they were ready to play. So maybe we should come back here after every game, if the guys are going to practice like that.”
The prospect of playing against Irving on the Garden parquet is something that gets Thomas’ energy up; he couldn’t help but break into a wide smile on Friday when a reporter mentioned the upcoming Celtics game. However, the Cavs’ game in Boston on Feb. 11 might be a more realistic opportunity for Thomas.
“If I’m able to play, like, it’s going to be a really special game for me,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be probably emotional, because I just gave my heart to that city and they showed genuine love back. And that’s how we feel about each other. So if I am able to play that game, it will be good.”
The Cavs continue to be in no rush when it comes to Thomas’ timeline. Thomas said that Cavs’ trainer George Sibel, who has been assigned to aiding in Thomas’ rehab, jokes that he would prefer Thomas sit out until April, when the playoffs begin.
“When the medical staff clears him and he says he’s ready to play and ready to go, and they’re comfortable with it, then that’s when we’ll make the move,” Lue said. “It’s not up to me, it’s not up to Isaiah; it’s up to the medical staff. And when they make the decision, that’s when we cut him loose.
“We’re getting very close and we’re excited.”