Things haven’t been going very well in Cleveland lately, and Isaiah Thomas seems to be at the center of a lot of it.
The Cavaliers are 4-7 since Thomas was activated and 4-5 with him in the lineup. During that span, defense, especially in an embarrassing 148-124 home loss to Oklahoma City, has been an issue. Oh, and there was that team meeting where several Cavs players, including Thomas, reportedly called out Kevin Love for missing most of the OKC game and a subsequent practice with an illness.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since all that went down, Thomas gave his perspective Saturday on the seemingly dysfunctional world that is Cleveland Cavs basketball in 2018.
Let’s start with that team meeting. Thomas said he didn’t “call out” Love for leaving the game (reportedly with migraines) and that the way the meeting was reported was “blown out of proportion.”
“I asked (Love) why wasn’t he at the game supporting his teammates. And then after the game, I didn’t ask him because he wasn’t there. So I was seeing where he was,” Thomas said. “So I didn’t call him out any. So those reports, whoever is saying that, there’s no bad blood between me and Kevin Love. We go back to fifth and sixth grade. I asked him a question where he was and it was never clarified. And that’s all it was. I approached him about a situation and it went out of house like it shouldn’t have, but it wasn’t nothing bigger than what the world was trying to make it like some type of beef between me and him. It’s never been that and I’ve never been that guy to do that.”
“We didn’t know why he wasn’t on the bench supporting his teammates and why he wasn’t in the locker room after the game. And then he missed the next practice, which it still wasn’t addressed. So we wanted to address it when we came together and everybody was there. And that’s what it was. It was no bigger than that. Whoever reported that it was and we was bashing Kevin Love, there was nothing to bash him about. We just wanted to know where he was and why he didn’t play.”
But what about that play Friday night where Love grabbed a rebound and seemed to bend down to mockingly present the ball to Thomas, who stands at 5-foot-9?
— Anthony™ (@AnthonyG729) January 27, 2018
“Did you see I was smiling right after? Did you see that part? OK then,” Thomas said. “There’s nothing between me and Kevin Love. At all.”
With respect to the team’s struggles on defense, Thomas said what has been on display in recent weeks is no different than the issues the team had earlier in the year. He says blaming him for the struggles is unfair.
“The problems we have now are the problems we had in November. We’ve been a lowest five (ranked) defensive team in the NBA the whole time, so when I come back, it’s my fault now. Which, life isn’t fair, but that’s not fair, bro. At all,” Thomas said. “And I just laugh at those things because I know in this team everybody believes in each other and everybody’s in here for it to work and for us to be playing in June.”
Thomas, who is coming off a serious hip injury, was a volume scorer during his time with the Boston Celtics and admitted he’s still trying to find his way on a new team with all-stars like LeBron James and Love. Not getting onto the court until January has predictably created a bit of a learning curve.
But that doesn’t mean Thomas wants to come off the bench.
“I’m in a new system, a totally new player that came in in the middle of January. A player that’s supposed to be very impactful on this organization. Like, that’s not going to work overnight. I don’t care who you are,” he said. “And to the fact that everybody wants it to happen overnight and those first two games were like, ‘They’re gonna beat the Warriors,’ and then we go on a three-game losing streak and it’s like, ‘Isaiah needs to get on the bench.’ That’s disrespectful to the work that I put in.”
Many have also been critical of Thomas’ shot selection. He is shooting just 39 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from long distance while taking an average of 13.7 shots per game.
“What did you trade me here for? To not shoot? To not find my rhythm? To not be Isaiah Thomas? I can’t be anybody else,” he said.
Despite all the negativity, Thomas says he’s not panicking about the Cavs shaky play as of late. At 28-19, Cleveland is currently third in the Eastern Conference standings behind Boston and Toronto.
“I’m in a whole new situation. I’m used to having the ball every play. I’m used to making most of the plays. So I got to figure out and this team has to figure out how we can use each other’s strengths and use that as a positive. And it’s going to work out. It just takes some time. And I’m not back to who I am. I’m trying to get my rhythm back in real, live action. So that’s going to take time.”
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