Isaiah Thomas returned to the hardwood for the first time in eight months Tuesday when he made his debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring 17 points in 19 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers.
And although Thomas suited up Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena, he will not play Wednesday against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden because the Cavs don’t want to play him two nights in a row right away.
While that all makes sense and Thomas has promised to dazzle when the Cavs and C’s meet Feb. 11, Stephen A. Smith is furious that Thomas won’t face his old team Wednesday night.
ESPN’s vocal commentator discussed Thomas’ return Tuesday on “First Take,” and he voiced his extreme displeasure with the All-Star guard’s decision to rest against the Celtics.
“I’m very upset about it,” Smith said. “Let me tell you something right now, this is Isaiah Thomas. I mean he can be a sensitive lad from time to time, but the bottom line is he’s a great dude, phenomenal young player, phenomenal player, miniature player. 5-foot-9, averaged 28.9 a game, 46 percent shooting last (season), 38 percent from 3-point range, was a league MVP candidate but the hips went bad, and the first day you come back is the day before you go against Boston in Boston?
“Now, I understand what this means. We gotta know — because you know, he hasn’t played all season long so he might not be ready, and if he might not be ready, why would we expose him against his old team back in Boston?” Smith continued to rant. “But let me tell you something right now, and the city of Boston is a phenomenal sports town. I am willing to bet the house that they are going to give him a wonderful ovation. They love the kid because he never wanted to leave. It would have been nice to see him play tomorrow.”
Smith’s co-host Max Kellerman suggested that Thomas is ready to play Tuesday but not in back-to-backs, but Smith wasn’t having that, as he basically accused Thomas of ducking his old team.
“So if he’s ready now, why wouldn’t he be ready tomorrow?” Smith continued. “If you don’t want to play him tomorrow, who cares about him against Portland, it’s not an accident that he isn’t playing against Boston.”
While Thomas certainly expects a warm welcome Wednesday night, his and the Cavs’ priority is getting him ready for the NBA playoffs and not an early January game against the Celtics.
But we’re sure that whenever Thomas does make his return to TD Garden, it will be must-see TV.
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images