Isaiah Thomas to make Cavaliers debut Tuesday vs. Portland

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LeBron James, playing at an MVP level, has carried the Cavaliers to a 24-12 record (third in the East) with an offense that is one of the best in the league. He also has carried a heavy load and has played more minutes than anyone in the league (at age 33 in his 15th season).

The cavalry has arrived.

Isaiah Thomas, who Cleveland acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade last summer, will make his debut for the Cavs Tuesday, recovered from the hip issue that sidelined him all season. Coach Tyron Lue made the announcement on Monday, adding that IT will come off the bench and be on a minutes restriction (less than dozen minutes, reportedly).

Thomas’ teammates are pumped for his debut, including Jose Calderon (who is going to lose minutes to Thomas… a good thing for the Cavs).

It’s going to take time for him to get his legs under him and adapt to playing with LeBron. Ultimately, the Cavaliers need Thomas to be somewhere near what he was last season, an elite scorer and shot creator that gives Cleveland options and diversity. Thomas was an All-NBA guard last season, and even if he can’t repeat that level of play (we’ll see if he has the explosion and mobility that make him so hard to guard), what he can bring is another threat that will open up the Cavaliers offense.

Other teams in the East have seen the Cavaliers as vulnerable this season, mostly because they have the 26th ranked defense in the NBA on the season (and it is third worst in the last 10 games). Thomas is not going to help with that. But the Cavaliers are still the team to beat in the East, and they are about to get better.