INDEPENDENCE — Point guard Isaiah Thomas could be back by January and veteran shooting guard Dwyane Wade’s next stop could be Cleveland.
The 5-foot-9 Thomas’ injured right hip has made steady progress over the last three weeks and he’s begun limited on-court activities, the Cavaliers said Monday just prior to the start of their annual media day.
“Physically, I’m in a good place,” Thomas said. “I’m making progress each and every day.
“The big thing is getting that strength back and getting that muscle firing again,” he added. “It’s firing again.”
The Cavs also emerged as one of the favorites — if not the favorite — to land the 35-year-old Wade after the three-time NBA champion reached a buyout agreement with the Chicago Bulls.
Wade, who left about $8 million on the table in his buyout with Chicago, can earn about $4 million this season by going back to Miami, while the Cavs and San Antonio, who are expected to be his other primary suitors, can offer the 6-4, 220-pounder the veteran minimum of $2 million.
Oklahoma City, which has added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to point guard Russell Westbrook, could also enter the mix.
Wade and four-time league MVP LeBron James played together for four years in Miami, leading the Heat to four straight NBA Finals and two titles, and many believe their longtime friendship makes the Cavs the favorite to land the 15th-year pro.
“I would love to have D-Wade a part of this team,” said James, who planned to contact his good friend. “I think he brings another championship DNA, another championship pedigree.”
Wade, who also led the Heat to a title in 2006, averaged 18.3 points,
4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the Bulls last season. For his career, he is averaging 23.3, 4.8 and 5.7.
While in the twilight of his career, Wade is still talented, but as a driver and midrange shooter he’s much different than current Cavs starter J.R. Smith, who is mostly a catch-and-shoot 3-point specialist.
With the Cavs already having big scorers in James, Kevin Love and eventually Thomas, coach Tyronn Lue will need to make some changes in his offense if Wade is added and moved into the starting lineup.
“I hope we can bring him here,” James said. “I would love to have him.”
The Thomas update was the first given by the Cavs that provided any sort of timeline for his return since they officially acquired him on Aug. 30.
The two-time All-Star averaged a career-high 28.9 points (third in the NBA) last season and was the main piece Cleveland acquired — along with a 2018 first-round pick that originally belonged to Brooklyn — in the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston.
In addition to some on-court work, the 28-year-old Thomas has been doing mobilization exercises and hydrotherapy as part of his rehabilitation.
“It’s great news,” Lue said, adding, “He’s an All-Star. Any time you can get a guy like that back and into your fold, it’s exciting.”
Lue confirmed 28-year-old Derrick Rose will be his starting point guard until Thomas is ready, but doesn’t expect a huge adjustment when the latter returns.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “We’ve seen him the last few years in the playoffs, so he pretty much knows what we run.”
Unlike Irving, who wanted out of Cleveland because he wanted to run his own team, Thomas is thrilled to have the opportunity to play with James, Love and others.
“I’ve been the guy who’s had to do most of the work,” he said of his time with the Celtics. “I’m excited to give them something they didn’t have and to be part of something I’ve never been a part of — a championship-caliber team. It’s been real genuine love since I’ve been here.”
The Cavs have 19 players in camp, one short of the league maximum for the preseason: Jose Calderon, Jae Crowder, Kay Felder, Channing Frye, Jeff Green, John Holland, James, Richard Jefferson, Kyle Korver, Love, Cedi Osman, Kendrick Perkins, Rose, Iman Shumpert, Smith, Edy Tavares, Thomas, Tristan Thompson and Ante Zizic.
Cleveland can keep 17 players, with two of those having two-way contracts with the G League (formerly the NBA Development League).
Holland is on a two-way contract and will spend most of his season with the Canton Charge, if Cleveland keeps him. Perkins played with the Cavs in 2014-15, was out of the league last season and is in camp basically as a favor. If Holland is kept, that means Felder and Tavares are likely battling for the final two-way contract, with Felder probably the favorite. Before either is given a two-way deal, he must clear waivers and agree to re-sign.
The other 15 players have guaranteed contracts. One of them eventually would have to be traded or released if Cleveland signs Wade.
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