Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas will make his debut for Cleveland on Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers after being sidelined because of a hip injury while Houston Rockets star James Harden will miss at least two weeks with a left hamstring strain.
Thomas has been out since last year's Eastern Conference finals, when he played with Boston. After months of grueling rehab, Thomas will finally take the floor with Cleveland, which acquired him during the offseason in a blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics.
"It's been a long process for me," Thomas said Monday following practice. "It's been a frustrating and tough process, but at the same time you got to trust it. I just attacked it every day to try to get better and now that day is here. I haven't played in so long, so man it's going to be a weird feeling tomorrow, but I'm happy. I'm happy it's here."
The Rocket announced Monday that Harden, the NBA's leading scorer, has a grade 2 strain and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Harden was injured on a missed layup late in the fourth quarter of Houston's 148-142 double-overtime win against the Lakers on Sunday night. He said after the game that he didn't think the injury was serious, but the guard was walking with a pronounced limp.
The Rockets have the second-best record in the Western Conference behind Golden State at 26-9, and Harden leads the NBA with his scoring average of 32.3 points per game. He also is averaging 9.1 assists, ranking third in the league. Harden, who has played every game this season, has been extremely durable during his career, missing just two games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
Thomas has building up his strength in recent weeks in scrimmages. He finally has been cleared to play in a game.
Thomas will not play in back-to-back games, so he'll miss Wednesday's game in Boston. The Cavaliers and Celtics will square off again on Feb. 11.
Thomas has slowly worked his way into game shape, scrimmaging first against the G-League Canton Charge and then with his teammates a few days ago. While he's in good physical shape, his game still needs some conditioning.
"My hip is better, but I have no rhythm," he said. "I have no feel for the game right now. I've been out for so long it feels like I lost my powers. So even when we're out there scrimmaging I can move around and do what I want, but I just don't have my powers yet. So, with the games coming, it's going to give me an opportunity to get my rhythm back, get my feel back. And it might take some time but at the same time, the progress that I've made is all good and positive progress, and I'm excited about the opportunity to be able to get out there and compete."
The Cavaliers are eager to incorporate Thomas, who averaged nearly 29 points last season, into their offense. He gives coach Tyronn Lue another proven scorer who can take some of the pressure off LeBron James.
Lue says Thomas will initially come off the bench.
Philadelphia center Joel Embiid injured his right hand going after an inbounds pass late in the fourth quarter of the 76ers' 123-110 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night. Embiid had X-rays taken and his hand wrapped in ice after the game, and said he thinks he will be fine. "They said it wasn't broken. They think it was sprained, so I guess that's good news," Embiid said.
6:55 p.m.: This article has been updated with news of James Harden's injury.