CLEVELAND — Fewer moments are as “inside basketball” as the 30-minute mark prior to a game. While most fans are milling around the concourse to pick up some gear or to grab that evening’s beverage of choice, it’s this window where in-game production begins. In Cleveland, it’s typically a local dance troop, junior cheerleading squad, or a neighboring karate studio that gets to take to the floor for a pregame routine before heading to their seats to take in that night’s game as a group.
This window of time is afforded to these groups as players have already taken part in their pregame warm-ups and have retreated back to the locker room for pregame rituals, be it last-minute game planning or their team prayer. On a night early in December, however, one local group is forced to do their pre-game dance routine on one half of the floor as the other is being taken up by Isaiah Thomas who is still getting up shots despite that night’s game being minutes away from tipping off.
While it’s fair to assume that evening’s pregame entertainment flawlessly executed their routine, it’s also fair to assume no one would be able to confirm such a notion as all eyes were fixated on Thomas as he breaks off a flurry of cross-over dribbles before effortlessly dropping a floater through the net. Making matters worse: Thomas’ young son, Jaiden, is his personal ball boy, corralling rebounds and using all of his might to kick the ball back out to his dad for the next shot. It was adorable and endearing and mesmerizing as fans who normally would not be allowed in the arena early enough to see most players warm up were afforded this opportunity to watch a player go through his routine.
But Thomas isn’t just any player.
He’s one part mystery and one part currency, the tangible return in a late-summer trade that saw Kyrie Irving get dealt from the only team he had played for in his six-year career.
While Twitter GMs fetishize the draft pick the Cavs received in the deal, it’s Thomas who is the All-NBA player who has the potential to help Cleveland win their second championship in three years. It’s Thomas who Allen Iverson once called “The Future.” And it’s Thomas who to this point has only played against the Cavs.
Yet here Cleveland fans are, captivated by a player who has yet to wear a Cavaliers jersey taking practice shots with his son on a nondescript Saturday in December as he continues to work his way back from the floor after falling victim to a hip injury late last season.