INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — While introducing their acquisitions from the summer’s blockbuster trade, the Cleveland Cavaliers were reluctant to discuss Isaiah Thomas’ health during a news conference Thursday.
“To be fair to Isaiah, we’re not going to address any specifics on his hip injury,” general manager Koby Altman said. “We’re also not going to put a timetable on it.”
Altman added: “We’re not going to rush it, at all.”
Altman intercepted a question directed to Thomas about his health and tried to steer the proceedings away from the subject, declaring, “This is not going to turn into the Isaiah Thomas hip press conference.”
Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas (right) did not address specific questions about his hip injury during an introductory news conference.
While Altman was careful not to put any expectations on a return date, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue revealed that Thomas will miss the start of the season. That would mean the All-Star point guard still has at least five to six weeks of rehab ahead of him before he suits up for Cleveland. Altman said Cleveland will lean on free-agent signees Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon while Thomas is out.
The state of Thomas’ hip during a physical was the holdup in completing the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick. Boston ultimately agreed to send Cleveland an additional draft pick — the Miami Heat’s 2020 second-rounder — to complete the swap.
Thomas said he has been getting treatment on the hip every day and working out in the weight room. He last played competitive basketball nearly four months ago, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, before having to sit out the rest of the series because of his hip.
“As Koby said, we have a plan set and we’re just going to attack that plan and get me back to 100 percent as soon as possible,” Thomas said.
Altman did say Cleveland had a “nonsurgical plan” in place for Thomas, after which Thomas chimed in, “Y’all hear that? Everybody wants to be doctors now.”
Thomas, who is in a contract year and previously stated he expected Boston to “back up the Brink’s truck” to retain him next summer, said his injury status is not putting pressure on how he views his upcoming free agency.
“When it comes to basketball, there’s no pressure,” Thomas said. “Worked too hard to even think about pressure. So when that time comes and I’m able to be on the court and play at the level I know I can play at, that will take care of everything else.”
More than two weeks have passed since the Cavs and Celtics originally agreed to terms of the deal, and Thursday’s news conference was pushed back an additional 90 minutes because of a travel issue for Crowder, whose plane was delayed in Atlanta.
Crowder’s mother, Helen Thompson, died from cancer the same night the Cavs and Celtics originally agreed to the trade. She was 51 years old.
“I was able to whisper to my mom before she passed,” Crowder said. “I just told her, ‘I’m going to Cleveland,’ and five minutes later she passed.”
Before Crowder heads back to Atlanta to continue to console his grandmother, he is going house-hunting in Cleveland with the help of new teammate J.R. Smith. Crowder and Smith have a spotty history, dating back to the 2015 playoffs when Smith was ejected from a game for a flagrant foul on Crowder. But Crowder said Smith’s wife reached out to him after the trade.
The news conference was a decided change of pace in an offseason during which the Cavs parted ways with general manager David Griffin, struck out on a trade for Paul George in the 11th hour, failed to hire Chauncey Billups to the front office after a protracted courtship and shipped out Irving, who hit one of the biggest shots in league history to cement the 2016 NBA championship.
Thomas said both he and Crowder have already been in touch with Cavs star LeBron James since the deal. Lue said Crowder would be relied upon to guard an opponent’s best offensive weapon, “which allows LeBron to roam, which he loves to do on defense, pick off steals and passes and anchor our defense by talking and communicating.”
Thomas, who spent his first three NBA seasons playing for struggling teams in Sacramento, was effusive in his praise of James.
“I’m excited to play with the best player in the world,” Thomas said. “I’ve been in situations before where things have been a little tough and we haven’t had the best players and we just kept fighting and worked with what we had. … Being put in this situation on the court is everything.”
Thomas was bullish about the Cavs’ potential this upcoming season.
“It’s a scary thing if everything is able to click with the guys we have coming in and guys we have on this team,” he said.
Lue, however, tempered expectations by mentioning the biggest question mark facing the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.
“We know once we hit the playoffs, if we’re healthy, we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” Lue said.