BOSTON (CBS) — Isaiah Thomas will make his long-awaited Cavaliers debut on Tuesday night, but Boston fans will have to wait a little longer to get their first look at the former Celtics star with his new team.
Thomas will return from his hip injury on Tuesday night when the Cavaliers host the Portland Trail Blazers, but will sit out Wednesday night’s visit to the TD Garden. The Cavaliers will be back in Boston for the two teams’ final regular season matchup on February 11, the day the Celtics will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.
Thomas has not held back his displeasure with the Boston front office since the summer blockbuster trade that sent him to Cleveland (along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick) for guard Kyrie Irving. But a minutes restriction (he’ll come off the bench and reportedly only play 8-12 minutes on Tuesday) will keep him out of Cleveland’s first trip to Boston.
While he’s made it clear that he isn’t a fan of Danny Ainge, Thomas said he expects to hear a lot of love from Boston fans on Wednesday night.
“I know it will be all love,” Thomas told ESPN of his Boston return. “I keep saying that I gave that city everything I had and they showed me genuine love back and I think that love is going to last forever. So, there’s no hard feelings. This ain’t no revenge game. They know what they gave up. They knew what they got. It’s all good. I’m focused on the Cleveland Cavaliers and trying to win a championship.”
Thomas said he didn’t want to force it on Wednesday night, and can wait until February to face his former team.
“I know where I am right now and I wouldn’t want to put myself out there to just try to force it,” said Thomas. “I can wait until February. I think we play them in February again, so I can wait and put on a show then.”
So fans won’t get to see Thomas on Wednesday night, and they won’t get to see a tribute video either. The Celtics announced they will not be playing a tribute for Thomas — per the player’s request.
The 5-foot-9 guard reshaped the Boston franchise upon his arrival at the 2015 trade deadline, helping lead the team to three straight postseason berths. He made watching Celtics basketball appointment television, morphing into “The King Of The Fourth” with his late-game scoring. He helped turn a lottery team into a postseason contender and put the team on his back with an incredible postseason run last season, playing through the death of his younger sister just prior to the playoffs. Thomas averaged 23.3 points per game for Boston in the postseason, including 27.4 points in Boston’s Eastern Conference Semifinals win over the Washington Wizards.
He was shut down midway through Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers with the hip injury, and hasn’t played in a game since. He scrimmaged with the Cavaliers for the first time on Friday, and can’t wait to return to game action on Tuesday night.
“It’s a blessing,” he told reporters. “It’s been a long process for me. It’s been a frustrating and tough process but at the same time you got to trust it. Each and every day, I just attacked it every day to try to get better and now that day is here. I haven’t played in so long so man, it’s going to be a weird feeling tomorrow but I’m happy. I’m happy it’s here.”