CLEVELAND, Ohio — Scribbles in my Cleveland Cavaliers notebook as the team prepares to introduce Isaiah Thomas at a press conference:
1. I don’t know exactly what Isaiah Thomas will say about his comeback from his hip injury. But here is what the Cavs should tell their newly-acquired guard from the Boston Celtics: “Take your time. Work on being ready for later in the regular season and the playoffs.”
2. There is no reason to rush the return of Thomas. None. From the moment LeBron James arrived in the summer of 2014, the real season is the playoffs. The Cavs want to win enough games to have a decent spot in the Eastern Conference. They don’t have to win it.
3. Thomas has a torn labrum in his hip. Speculation is that he could be out until February … or later. Or that he’ll never be close to the same dynamic player who averaged 29 points for the Celtics last season.
4. I have no clue how or when Thomas will come back. But I do know Thomas will want to return to the court as soon as possible. He loves to defy his critics. He is hurt and angry about being traded by Boston, where he led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. He also is in the last season of his contract. By NBA standards, it’s a modest $6.3 million. He will then be a free agent.
5. My concern is Thomas will rush to come back too soon. In the same 2011 draft where Kyrie Irving was the first player picked, Thomas was the last player selected in the second round. In other words, Thomas was the last player drafted, period. They ended up being the top two point guards in the Eastern Conference. Thomas had to work for that recognition. Irving had it from the beginning because of his natural talent and being the top pick in the draft.
6. Thomas will embrace the Cavs and playing with James. Like Kevin Love, he knows how hard it is to win in the NBA. He knows what being on the court with the best player in the world can do for your career. Thomas is 28 years old. The Cavs are his fourth team. His size has always worked against him.
7. I had respected NBA people tell me this about the Celtics the last few years: “When your best player is 5-foot-9, you can’t play for a title.”
8. They were right about the 5-foot-9 Thomas. He had to carry the scoring load for the Celtics. The Cavs were too much for him. But now, he’s with the Cavs. Not only does he have James, but he’ll play with Kevin Love — and Love can be a 20-point scorer if needed.
9. I haven’t written a word about Derrick Rose, who probably will start at point guard as Thomas recovers. He has battled knee injuries for much of his career. But Rose has a tremendous chance to revive his career. He still can drive to the rim. A huge difference between Rose and Irving is Rose is poor in what the NBA calls “catch-and-shoot” jumpers. It’s exactly what it says: Catch a pass, go right up with the jump shot.
10. Along with being perhaps the best driver to the rim with either hand in the NBA, Irving also is a superb outside shooter. Guys playing with James end up taking a lot of open 3-pointers. Irving shot 47 percent on those. Some other Cavaliers: Kyle Korver (45 percent), Channing Frye (42 percent) and J.R. Smith (36 percent). What about Thomas and Rose? Thomas was at 40 percent, Rose only 20 percent.
11. Over the weekend, I wrote about how Jae Crowder is an excellent fit for a team with James. Acquired from Boston, Crowder is a superb defender. He made 46 percent from 3-point range shooting in the corner. He’s a very tough player, his personality and style was what made Boston a good defensive team last season.
12. The Cavs will have a much different look without Irving. But don’t underestimate what Rose, Crowder and Thomas can bring — especially in the playoffs.