-- All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas told ESPN that he has made significant progress with his injured hip toward a return in the 2017-18 season and has a message for NBA teams doubting his long-term prognosis.
"I am not damaged," Thomas told ESPN on Tuesday. "I'll be back, and I'll be the same player."
Thomas, a second-team All-NBA player for the Boston Celtics, was included in a trade to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving Aug. 22, but uncertainty surrounding his anticipated return to the court has stalled the finalizing of the deal.
Cleveland and Boston officials started to engage each other on a solution on Tuesday, league sources told ESPN. Cleveland is no longer seeking one of the Celtics' top young players or significant draft picks, league sources said. The Cavaliers could be inclined to complete the deal for a late first-round pick or second-round considerations, league sources said.
The deadline to report and submit to a physical for the players involved in the trade is 10 a.m. ET Wednesday, and the deadline to pass the physical is 10 a.m. ET Thursday, per league rules.
In an interview with ESPN on Tuesday afternoon, Thomas was forceful in his belief that the labrum injury that ended his season in the Eastern Conference Finals to Cleveland will not have a long-term impact on his career.
"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."
Thomas, 28, is entering the final year of his contract, and has been expected to be in line for a $100 million-plus contract in free agency. He had the best season of his career last year, averaging 28.9 points a game. In his three seasons with the Celtics, Thomas emerged as one of the NBA's elite guards. He was chosen an Eastern Conference All-Star twice.
"I haven't had one doctor tell me that this injury is going to hurt my career," Thomas said. "Surgery was not the best option in this case. I aggravated it in March when [Minnesota's]? Karl-Anthony Towns fell on me. I kept playing on it, and making it worse -- until I couldn't play anymore last season."
The Celtics and Cavaliers agreed on a deal to send four-time All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to Boston for Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round pick via the Brooklyn Nets.
Thomas has been in consistent contact with Cavaliers officials since his physical on Friday in Cleveland, he said.
"I don't know what [the organization] is doing," Thomas told ESPN. "It's out of my control. I just want to talk about what I can control, and I know that this (hip) won't be a problem into the future."
Thomas also did not yet want to speak about the emotions of a possible departure from Boston or his arrival in Cleveland. Thomas has been consulting with renowned hip specialist, Dr. Bryan Kelly of the Hospital for Special surgery in New York.
"He told me, "I have seen hips worse than yours with guys who played at a high level and had great careers," Thomas told ESPN. "At the moment, yes, I am injured, but I have made progress from May."
Because Thomas is in the final year of his contract -- which coincides with James' opt-out next summer -- Cleveland has an urgency to get Thomas on the court this year.
All along, Boston has believed it was clear in its assessment of Thomas' physical status and that the information was communicated to the Cavaliers in the conversations before Tuesday's trade, league sources said. In a telephone conference call with reporters after the trade was announced, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge admitted that Thomas' physical condition played "some" role in trading him to Cleveland as part of the Irving package.
Cleveland had significantly valued the 2018 Nets pick in the trade, and Boston believed it allowed for Thomas' physical uncertainty in the current terms of the deal, league sources said.