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Isaiah Thomas will make his debut Tuesday against Portland

INDEPENDENCE, OHIO– After four months, the wait is finally over.

Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas will make his debut tomorrow night as the Cavs take on the Portland Trail Blazers. Head coach Tyronn Lue made the announcement following the team’s practice on Monday afternoon. During practice, Lue said that Thomas went through shooting drills as well as five-on-five work.

“It’s a blessing,” Thomas said. “It’s been a long process for me. It’s been a frustrating and tough process, but at the same time you’ve gotta trust it. Each and everyday I just attacked it everyday to try to get better and now that day’s here. I haven’t played in so long, so it’s going to be a weird feeling tomorrow, but I’m happy. I’m happy it’s here.”

A former Boston Celtic, Thomas has not played since Game 2 of the 2016-17 Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavs due to a torn labrum in his right hip. During the offseason, the Cavs acquired Thomas in the blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade.

As this will be the first time Thomas will be in actual game situations with his new teammates, there will undoubtedly be some growing pains as he is integrated into the lineup. In these first games especially, Thomas will have an undisclosed minutes restriction, and will come off the bench. Both Lue and Thomas acknowledged that it will be a process as the point guard finds his rhythm.

But for a guy who was in the MVP conversation last year, and averaged 28.9 points, 5.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds, the Cavs will need him to simply play his game rather than defer to his teammates. It’s a philosophy Lue has long subscribed to concerning new additions to the team, and Thomas seems on board.

“I’m a scoring guard,” Thomas said. “So, I know how to put the ball in the basket. They traded for me for a reason and that was to play the game that I know how to play. And that’s make plays, try to make the right play each and every time down and score the ball.”

“Everybody is excited for him, I’m excited, but it’s going to be a process,” Lue said. “Getting in shape, getting his timing. He can’t get frustrated thinking it’s going to happen overnight, but we’re very excited to have him back.”

One area where Thomas can definitely be a huge help is as another scoring threat who can facilitate the offense. As the Christmas Day game against the Warriors showed, while the Cavs may be less top heavy than last season, they still need a playmaker who can take some pressure off of LeBron James.

“When ‘Bron gets tired or is not having a good game, you have another guy you can give the ball and he can create and make plays, so we’re excited about that,” Lue said.

Lue also confirmed that Thomas will be unable to play in back-to-back games for the time being, meaning he will not appear when the Cavs take on Boston on Wednesday. Thomas said he has not yet thought about what it will be like to return to his former city.

“I keep saying that I gave (Boston) everything I had and they showed me genuine love back,” he said. “I think that love is going to last forever. So, there’s no hard feelings, this isn’t no revenge game, they know what they gave up, they know what they got, so it’s all good. I’ll focus on the Cleveland Cavaliers and trying to win a championship.”

The good news is, the Cavs return to Boston on Feb. 11, giving Thomas plenty of time to figure out his rhythm and his role.

But through all of his tribulations these last four months, it’s important to acknowledge that Thomas’ time away from the game has been as much of a mental battle as a physical one. After all, after eight seasons in the league, this was his first major injury that caused him to miss an extended amount of time. Even when he was not able to physically do everything he wanted, however, Thomas said he still worked watching film trying to figure out what his role could be.

But maybe most importantly, while it’s clear he’s never taken the game for granted, this injury has given him a fresh perspective.

“I was always one to just—I wanted to be the best I possibly could, get everything out of this game I possibly could,” he said. “I definitely don’t take it for granted, and this made me a better basketball player and a better person mentally and physically so, it should be something special, 2018.”

Ashley is a former basketball player who covers the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indians and high school sports for NEO Sports Insiders. She also covers the Cavs for SB Nation's Fear The Sword. Ashley is a 2015 graduate of John Carroll University and previously worked in political journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @AshleyBastock42

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