By Tom Wither, AP Sports Writer
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Isaiah Thomas could be running the point for Cleveland by the end of the year.
The All-Star point guard, acquired from Boston this summer in a blockbuster trade, has made progress with his hip injury, and the Cavaliers expect him to be playing games by January.
Thomas has begun running and doing on-court activities as he rehabilitates the injury, which prematurely ended his postseason with the Celtics. Cleveland acquired him in a trade that sent All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, its biggest challenger in the East.
Thomas doesn’t need surgery. While the Eastern Conference champions have been encouraged by his recovery, they will not rush him back. While he gets healthy, Derrick Rose, another summer acquisition, will start at point guard.
Thomas averaged 28.9 points last season for the Celtics, who sent him along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft to Cleveland.
The Cavaliers were concerned with Thomas’ injury, so the Celtics added a second-round pick to complete the deal.
When they introduced Thomas at a news conference, the Cavaliers were vague about a timeline for his return, mainly because they hadn’t yet worked with him. It’s now possible Thomas could be back and playing by Christmas, when the Cavs visit Golden State.
Thomas is only under contract for the upcoming season and has said in the past he wants a maximum contract.