Isaiah Thomas of the Cleveland Cavaliers scored 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on January 2, 2018
Los Angeles (AFP) - Point guard Isaiah Thomas will make his first start for Cleveland on Saturday as the Cavaliers seek a bounce-back win against the Magic in Orlando.
Thomas, traded to Cleveland from the Boston Celtics prior to the season, was idle until this week as he recovered from a nagging hip injury.
Thomas scored 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday and said that “for the most part” he feels fine.
“I’m a little sore and I expected to be sore and a little stiff but for the most part, my body feels good,” Thomas said.
Thomas sat out the Cavs’ next game, a 102-88 loss to the Celtics in Boston.
But Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said his insertion into the starting lineup – and the return of veteran Derrick Rose – should bolster a Cleveland team that has lost five of its last seven games despite the best efforts of superstar LeBron James.
“Having IT out – an NBA second-team guy who averaged 29 points a game and an All-Star – having him out, having D-Rose out, our backup point guard, the whole season, I think we’ve done a good job holding the fort down,” Lue said.
“Once we get our full team, get healthy, then things are going to change and things will be different.”
Rose has played just seven games this season after suffering a sprained left ankle in the second game of the campaign. He missed four games, then after a premature return has been sidelined since November 7.
Rose, the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player, won’t play in Orlando, but could return during Cleveland’s five-game road-trip.
When he does come back, Lue said, he’ll be used to give 35-year-old veteran Dwyane Wade a little more down-time.
“Playing D-Wade on a lot of back-to-backs has been tough for him,” Lue said. “Some games he doesn’t feel great, but we don’t really have the extra ball-handler to sit him.
“So when D-Rose gets back, he’ll definitely help with that and help with D-Wade getting his rest and being able to feel good on the floor.”