While the trade sending Kyrie Irving to the Celtics and Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers is in limbo due to Thomas' hip injury, Thomas himself has been perfectly clear about one thing—that he will return as the same player he was before the injury.
"I am not damaged," Thomas told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski in an extensive interview. "I'll be back, and I'll be the same player."
Thomas was traded to the Cavs along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets' unprotected 2018 first-round pick in exchange for Irving last Tuesday. But the deal was subject to all players taking—and passing—a physical, and the Cavs decided to explore their options regarding the completion of the deal after examining Thomas' hip. Per the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement, a deal can be voided entirely if one of the involved players fails a physical.
Early reports had Cleveland asking for one of Boston's prized young wings, Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, in order to complete the deal. But Wojnarowski is now reporting that Cleveland might accept a deal with the original package plus a late first-round pick or second-round considerations.
Thomas said he aggravated his labrum injury in his hip in March, when the Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns stepped on it. Thomas finished the season on the injury—a season in which he was named second-team All-NBA and finished fifth in MVP voting—and led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals. He left game two of that series with the injury and would not play again in the series, which the Cavs won in five games.
"There's never been an indication that I wouldn't be back, and there's never been an indication that this is something messing up my career," Thomas told ESPN. "Maybe I am not going to be back as soon this season as everyone wants me to be, but I'm going to be back, and I'm going to be the same player again. No doctor has told me anything different than that."
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge told reporters that Thomas' hip played "some role" in the decision to trade him. Thomas, 28, is in the final year of his contract and has been vocal about seeking a max contract when he reaches free agency.
Per Wojnarowski, Thomas has been seeing renowned hip specialist Dr. Bryan Kelly of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
"I haven't had one doctor tell me that this injury is going to hurt my career," Thomas told ESPN.
Thomas's comments aren't likely to sway the Cavs one way or the other, and they're exactly what you'd expect a player entering a contract year to say. It now seems like this deal will indeed be completed, setting up an epic opening-night matchup when the Celtics visit the Cavs on Oct. 17.