By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Isaiah Thomas is one big step closer to joining the Cavaliers.
Cleveland assigned the All-Star point guard to its Canton G-League team so he could practice and scrimmage with the Charge on Thursday, a significant development in his recovery from a torn labrum in his right hip. Thomas was scheduled to work out at the Cavs’ training facility in Independence.
On Wednesday, Thomas said how his body responds from the stress of 5-on-5 scrimmages will determine how soon he’ll be able to make his debut with Cleveland. He’s been sidelined since aggravating a hip injury in the playoffs last season with the Boston Celtics.
The Cavs have said since October that they believed Thomas would be able to play in NBA games by Jan. 1. The 28-year-old was acquired during a hectic offseason in a trade for All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. The Celtics sent Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a draft pick to Cleveland in the blockbuster deal.
Cleveland is eager to add him to the lineup, and LeBron James has sensed that Thomas is ready.
“Yeah, his attitude is getting worse and worse because he’s getting closer and closer,” James said following the team’s morning shootaround before hosting the Chicago Bulls. “When you get closer and closer to something you love and you want, your attitude actually gets worse.”
Thomas, who averaged 28.9 points last season as one of the NBA’s top playmakers, said he wants to be “special” when he returns to the floor and not “just another body.”
After a slow start, the Cavaliers have won 18 of 20 and 11 straight at home. They’ll visit the Golden State Warriors on Christmas and play at Sacramento and Utah next week before returning to Cleveland to face Portland on Jan. 2.
The next day, they’ll play in Boston for their second matchup with Irving. This time, they might have Thomas on the floor.
“We’re all excited for when he’s able to come back to the team, but he’s been around the team all year,” James said. “It’s not like he hasn’t been here and he’s been at a rehab center or something. Whenever he’s ready to go, we’ll be ready. He’s never had a timetable here. When he’s ready to go and the training staff gives him the OK and the docs give him the OK, it will be an exciting time for our team.”
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