Inside Isaiah Thomas’ return to the court: 'Once I took that first shot, it felt normal again'

CLEVELAND — As Isaiah Thomas’ phone kept buzzing, his mind continued wandering on the eve of the most anticipated comeback to this NBA season. This was the culmination of the biggest test of his career, from the moment he had started rehabilitation for a serious hip injury to the phone call he received from his old general manager notifying him that the Boston Celtics had traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thomas recovered from the torn labrum in his hip over seven months, bypassing surgery and putting his body through the rigors of rehab. The rust on Thomas’ game Tuesday night inside Quicken Loans Arena was noticeable yet minimal, with a 17-point, three-assist performance in 19 minutes in the Cavaliers’ 127-110 victory against Portland. He shot 6-of-12 from the field and made three 3-pointers, showing the ability to find his spots on the floor and the lift on his jump shot that have made him a two-time All-Star and an All-NBA performer.

For someone seven months out of the game, seven months removed from an injury that created external doubt and pressures, this was everything. He had targeted the start of the new year to make his season debut, a fresh start to his Cleveland chapter: IT’s 2018.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Thomas told Yahoo Sports. “This was a crucial moment for me to step foot on the floor. New team, new arena … I’ve felt like I didn’t know what to expect, what it felt like to be on an NBA court. I felt like a rookie. Not being on the floor in seven months, I haven’t had a rhythm. Today, it felt like I had a rhythm. I’m still rusty, but I feel good, I feel comfortable out there.

“Once I took that first shot, it felt normal again.”

36 PHOTOS
Isaiah Thomas through his career
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Isaiah Thomas through his career
KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Isaiah Thomas #2 of the Washington Huskies dribbles the ball downcourt against the Kansas Jayhawks during the CBE Classic game on November 24, 2008 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 20: Guard Isaiah Thomas #2 of the Washington Huskies reacts after a play during their 82-64 win over the New Mexico Lobos in the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at HP Pavilion on March 20, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA -JUNE 25: Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings smiles for the camera following a press conference on June 25, 2011 at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 26: Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings in action besides Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Power Balance Pavilion on December 26, 2011 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) reacts to teammate Marcus Thornton (23) fouling Denver Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo (6) at the end of regulation, which resulted in overtime, during the second half of the Nuggets' 119-116 win at the Pepsi Center on Monday, March 5, 2011. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 15: (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OUT) Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks tries to get by Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings during a game on February 15, 2012 at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The Sacramento Kings' Isaiah Thomas and San Antonio Spurs' Gary Neal, top, battle for a loose ball in the third quarter at Power Balance Arena in Sacramento, California, on Wedesday, March 28, 2012. San Antonio edged Sacramento, 117-112. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 30: Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings trying to listen in on the Boston Celtics on December 30, 2012 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 13: Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings celebrate against the Chicago Bulls on March 13, 2013 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings shoots a free throw against the Los Angeles Clippers at Sleep Train Arena on November 1, 2013 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Clippers won the game 110-101. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 12: Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings is interviewed after the victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 12, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 29: Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Phoenix Suns poses for a photo during Media Day on September 29, 2014 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 05: Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the Memphis Grizzlies at US Airways Center on November 5, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Grizzlies defeated the Suns 102-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 23: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics gives a thumbs up to fans before the start of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on February 23, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 1: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics poses for a portrait before the game against the Golden state Warriors on March 1, 2015 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 27: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics takes a free throw against the Charlotte Hornets at the TD Garden on February 27, 2015 in Boston, Ma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 19: Matthew Dellavedova #8 of the Cleveland Cavaliers fights for a loose ball with Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics in the second half during Game One in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena on April 19, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Celtics 113-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 13: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics before the game against the Atlanta Hawks on November 13, 2015 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 09: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics carries the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the first quarter at TD Garden on December 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - JANUARY 10: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies on January 10, 2016 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -� JANUARY 16: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics shoots a free throw during the game against the Washington Wizards on January 16, 2016 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 14: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Eastern Conference dribbles the ball during the NBA All-Star Game as part of 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend on February 14, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 29: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics takes a shot against the Utah Jazz after a timeout is called during the second quarter at TD Garden on February 29, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 11: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the fourth quarter at TD Garden on March 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Rockets defeat the Celtics 102-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 3: Jonas Jerebko #8 of the Boston Celtics celebrates with Isaiah Thomas #4 after a made basket against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on December 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Celtics defeated the 76ers 107-106. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 7: A pick by Boston Celtics center Al Horford (#42) on New Orleans Pelicans guard Langston Galloway (#10) frees up Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (#4) on this play during the fourth quarter. The New Orleans Pelicans played the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in Boston on Jan. 7, 2017. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 13: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics reacts after hitting a three-point basket against the Dennis Schroder #17 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on January 13, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Feb 19, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Eastern Conference guard Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics (4) shoots the ball against Western Conference guard Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors (11) in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) stands alone during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls 106-102 win over the Boston Celtics in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 30: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics reacts during the second quarter of Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden on April 30, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. Thomas lost his front tooth after colliding with Otto Porter Jr. #22. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after scoring 53 points in defeating the Washington Wizards in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas (3) poses for a portrait during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 27: Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on while there's a time out during an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on December 27, 2017 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 2: Isaiah Thomas #3 listens to LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena on January 2, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 2: Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers yells to a teammate during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena on January 2, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Trail Blazers 127-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Thomas entered his first game in Cleveland the same way he has always played, attacking the opponent, which featured the return of Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard. Thomas is still searching for his flow, his fluidity on the court, but gave glimpses of the dynamic scoring ability that made him an elite player and a top star in the league on a given night. In truth, even one game in, he couldn’t wait to be unleashed.

There were the five shots in his first 4:33; the technical foul drawn late in the second quarter; the old off-ball screens against 7-footers and falls to the floor in which he never showed fear in Boston; and attempting to talk Cavaliers coach Ty Lue into extending his minutes Tuesday night. Both Thomas and the Cavaliers discussed his return off the bench, partly for him to receive an ovation from a soldout crowd. They’ve set a 20- to 22-minute restriction for him initially — one he tested on Tuesday, and one that he could play himself out of altogether, possibly as soon as his first start of the season Saturday in Orlando.

“It’s motivating to show I can break out of the limits, I hope,” Thomas told Yahoo Sports. “I know I can play so much better when that opportunity comes, and I’ll be ready to soon.”

So when those messages came flooding to his phone late Monday, Thomas responded. Some from former teammates. Some from his closest friends. But one came from Minnesota’s Jamal Crawford, a close, longtime friend and mentor who shared several long conversations with the fellow Seattle native during his rehab and recovery.

“IT is one of the very few people who I know that love hoop as much as I do,” Crawford told Yahoo Sports. “There’s never been one time that I’ve texted him, or vice versa, like, ‘Let’s go hoop,’ and one of us said no. For someone like that, who is watching every game no matter who’s playing, very few people could understand how this wore on him mentally. He already doesn’t take the game for granted, but this has helped him appreciate playing even more. Which is scary.”

When they shared messages last night?

“He couldn’t sleep, he was like a kid the night before Christmas,” Crawford told Yahoo Sports.

19 PHOTOS
Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder together
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Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder together
The Dallas Mavericks' Jae Crowder and the Sacramento Kings' Isaiah Thomas, right, scramble for a loose ball at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. (Sharon Ellman/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 23: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics is congratulated by Jae Crowder #99 after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at US Airways Center on February 23, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Celtics defeated the Suns 115-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 29: Jae Crowder #99 and Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics celebrate during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 29, 2015 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON - MARCH 29: The Celtics' Jae Crowder helps teammate Isaiah Thomas up off the floor after Boston's loss to the Clippers. The Boston Celtics hosted the Los Angeles Clippers in a regular season NBA game at the TD Garden on March 29, 2015. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 21: Jae Crowder #99 and Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics arrive before Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2015 NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 13: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics and Jae Crowder #99 celebrate during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden on November 13, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the Hawks 106-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 5: Isaiah Thomas #4 and Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 5, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 5: Isaiah Thomas #4 Avery Bradley #0 and Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics celebrate after Bradley hit a last second game winning shot during the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on February 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 104-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 5: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics celebrates with Jae Crowder #99 after winning the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on February 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 104-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13: Isaiah Thomas #4 and Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics celebrate after the game against the Miami Heat on April 13, 2016 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 24: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics celebrates with Marcus Smart #36 and Jae Crowder #99 after hitting a three pointer during overtime of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on April 24, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Hawks 104-95. NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 20: Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics celebrate at the end of the third quarter against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden on March 20, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 5: Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) holds off Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4), who appeared to be telling him where he should have been during the third quarter. The Boston Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden in Boston on Apr. 5, 2017. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - MAY 15: Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) and Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) react after Thomas nailed a three pointer for the 94-81 lead during the fourth quarter. The Boston Celtics host the Washington Wizards in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at TD Garden in Boston on May 15, 2017. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: Isaiah Thomas #4 and Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics react against the Washington Wizards during Game Six of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at Verizon Center on May 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
INDEPENDENCE, OH - SEPTEMBER 7: Jae Crowder #99 of the Cleveland Cavaliers speaks to the media during a press conference at The Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 7, 2016 in Independence, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
INDEPENDENCE, OH - SEPTEMBER 7: Tyronn Lue and General Manager Koby Altman of the Cleveland Cavaliers present Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic with their new jersies at The Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 7, 2016 in Independence, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 2: JR Smith, #5 Isaiah Thomas #3, Tristan Thompson #13 and Jae Crowder #99 of the Cleveland Cavaliers watch from the sidelines during the final minute of the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena on January 2, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Trail Blazers 127-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Seven months of rehabbing his injured hip, and Thomas accomplished Step One of a multi-step journey. Within the Cavaliers, there’s confidence in Thomas elevating the roster, and especially in co-existing with LeBron James when it matters most: in a potential NBA Finals against Golden State. Those questioning their ability to mesh have downplayed the brilliance of James and his talent to bring teams together as a season progresses.

There’s work to be done, though, and now Thomas awaits his journey to Boston, to his old Celtics teammates and GM Danny Ainge. It’s where he and Jae Crowder deserve loud ovations for their parts in rejuvenating the historic franchise, before the Celtics’ free-agent signing of Gordon Hayward and blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving.

Thomas had his family behind him and his son, Jaden, beside him as he smiled on his postgame walk out of the arena.

“We show what we can be,” Thomas told Yahoo Sports. “It’s a process for me and I’ve got to trust it.”

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