Cavs news: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier praise Isaiah Thomas
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a rough start to their season, considering their record and the injuries they’ve had to endure. While they currently sit at 6-6, the Cavs have yet to unleash their All-Star point guard in Isaiah Thomas.
The Cavs have seen firsthand what Thomas can do to opposing teams having played against him 16 times over the last two years and seeing him grow into an offensive juggernaut despite his 5’9″ frame. What they haven’t seen yet is what Thomas can do for them since he’s been dealing with the labral tear in his right hip. Cleveland is currently missing a guy who averaged 28.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 0.9 steals per game last season, but it’s more than that. Cleveland is missing one of the fiercest competitors and most impressive NBA stories in recent history. One of the guys who know Thomas best, however, can attest to what he brings to a team.
“He brings that feisty tenacity,” former C’s teammate Marcus Smart said. “He’s like that little brother who keeps getting on your nerves. He’s a pest. He brings that energy on the court, and you want to play because of how hard he plays.
“You just feel that presence, even though he’s small.”
Thomas was selected 60th (last pick) in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Sacramento Kings opted not to bring him back a few years later after he had a career year with the Kings in 2014. The Suns gave up on him and traded him just half a season into his three-year deal in 2015. And just last summer, Danny Ainge opted to trade the heart and soul of the Celtics’ squad after a monstrous year while playing in the postseason through the injured hip and the tragic death of his sister en route to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
Smart adds that while every player is motivated to get better and be great, a guy like Thomas just always seems to have an extra chip on his shoulder.
“We’re all highly motivated. But Isaiah, with all of the adversity, he kind of reminds you that it’s not easy just to keep pushing hard,” Smart said. “But when things get hard, you just remember that there’s someone who’s been through worse times than you.”
This season, that extra chip on his shoulder is to prove the Celtics wrong and show them that they did not make the right move trading for former Cavs’ guard Kyrie Irving instead of investing in Thomas. But first, Thomas has to take his time and come back 100% from the hip hear. There were multiple rumors late in the offseason and early this season that Thomas could be out until the All-Star break and even well into March, but all signs and expectations point to the six-year guard returning in very late December or early January.
Knowing Thomas and how hard it is for him to be on the sidelines while his team struggles a bit, former teammate Terry Rozier is sure Thomas will beat the timetable and come back stronger than before.
“Oh yeah,” Terry Rozier said of whether his ex-teammate is capable of coming back ahead of schedule. “We all saw it last year, the fight he had to put up with. The mental stuff, the physical stuff too, just fighting with all that. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back early.
“Me, knowing him personally, I know he wants to be out there now. He calls it a slow grind — the process of a recovery. I know how he’s going to come back, and I know he can’t wait to do it. I can’t wait to play against him.”
The Cavs have two games remaining against the Celtics this season, both in Boston on January 3 as well as on February 11, 2018, and Thomas is certainly looking to play in both of those games with his new teammates in what will be looked at as ‘revenge’ games.
Most recently, Smart said he spoke to Thomas about a week ago and said his old teammate is focused on the long run despite itching to get back on the court.
“It’s good — he’s in good spirits,” Smart said. “He’s coming along very well from the sound of it. His rehab is on point. It’s good to see that he’s getting back to (being himself), because I know the kind of person he is and what it must be like for him not being able to play.
“It messes with a lot of people’s minds, and IT is one of them, because he’s a very fierce competitor. He hates this right now, but he also understands that it’s not a sprint — it’s a marathon.”
For now, the Cavs will continue on without Thomas as they try to look like the championship contending team from the past couple of years. If they can figure out how to string together consecutive wins and start climbing back up the Eastern Conference standings, it’ll surely ease the pressure on Thomas to return and make an immediate impact with the Cavs.