Isaiah Thomas plays 4-on-4, Cavs' All-Star nearing return

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers' Isaiah Thomas catches a pass before the team's NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets in Cleveland. Thomas, who has yet to make his debut with the Cavaliers, played four-on-four with other Cleveland players and coaches on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, a significant step in his recovery from a hip injury. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

Tony Dejak

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cavaliers All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas played 4-on-4 on Wednesday, a significant step in his recovery from a hip injury.

Thomas, who has yet to make his debut with Cleveland, scrimmaged along with injured forward Tristan Thompson, rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic, and members of the coaching staff.

With coach Tyronn Lue and members of the team's front office watching intently from behind the basket, Thomas moved freely and didn't appear to have any restrictions during the half-court workout that took place following the team's morning shootaround.

Lue reported that Thomas "looked good" and absorbed some contact. It was the second straight day Thomas scrimmaged.

However, Lue did not provide any update on when Thomas might play in a game. Lue planned to check with the team's medical staff to find out the next step in Thomas' recovery program, which the 28-year-old has described as his "slow grind."

Because of Cleveland's schedule, there aren't many practice days for Thomas to get in work with his teammates. Lue said it's possible he'll practice with members of the Canton Charge, the Cavs' D-League affiliate.

Thomas has been making steady progress and nearing his return to action and helping the Cavs, who acquired him during the summer in the blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. Since training camp opened, the Cavs have said they expect Thomas to play in games by the end of 2017, and that projection could be moved up.

Thomas has been building up his workouts steadily as he recovers from a torn labrum in his right hip. It's possible Thomas could play in one of Cleveland's four home games this month before the team finishes December with three road games, including a Christmas Day matchup with the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

The Cavs would need to how Thomas recovers after taking contact during practice before he would be cleared to play.

"At the end of the day it's all about the next day," LeBron James said as he kept an eye on his teammates from the opposite corner of Cleveland Clinics Courts. "When they say they feel good the next day after a workout session, that's great to know."

Thompson has been sidelined since Nov. 1 with a strained left calf, but could return this week.

"Hopefully, yeah," Lue said. "Not sure how he's going to feel after today when he got done working out, so just trying to get a gauge on how he feels today, if there's any soreness or pain or anything and go from there."

Thompson said his return is completely up to the team's medical staff.

"I'm always ready to play, even when I first got hurt I was always ready to play," he said. "You've gotta listen to the medical team and that's their job, that's what they're here to do, to protect us and make sure when we come out to play we don't have nothing lingering or having a setback. When they say I'm ready to play and I'm ready to go, then, put back on the wine and gold."

James said the Cavaliers' 12-game winning streak has no bearing on when would be a good time for Thomas and Thompson to come back.

"That's not how we do it around here," he said. "When guys are healthy and are ready to get back in the lineup, then they'll be there, but there's never been no urgency for anyone."

The return of two rotational players will be a major challenge for Lue, who has spent much of the season juggling lineups because of injuries and trying to find the right combinations.

The Cavs have never played with Thomas, who averaged 28.9 points per game with Boston last year, but James said he has already visualized the impact the playmaker will have with Cleveland.

"I play a lot of NBA 2K," James said, referring to the video game. "It's the most realistic basketball game you could ever play. I mix and match a lot of lineup changes and things of that nature to see how we can be really good. I've done that."

And how do the Cavs look with Thomas?

"Looks pretty good," he said. "Looks pretty good."

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