Five chairs sat behind a table inside the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice facility Thursday afternoon, arrayed in anticipation of Cleveland introducing its haul from the Kyrie Irving trade. And, whether by coincidence or design, when the participants arrived at the start of the news conference, Isaiah Thomas — resplendent in a bright red suit — sat down in the middle chair.

It was fitting that Thomas would be positioned in the center of things; that’s what he is, after all. The undersized point guard was the only person almost everyone in attendance — as well as watching on television — wanted to hear speak. After weeks of discussion of the state of Thomas’s injured right hip, this would be a chance to let the world know exactly where things stand.

There was just one problem: neither the Cavaliers, nor Thomas, had any interest in doing so.

“Obviously, it’s sort of been well documented, the hip injury, over the past week and a half and to be fair to Isaiah we’re not going to address any specifics of the hip injury,” Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman said. “We’re also not going to put a timetable on his return. We’re not going to rush it at all.

“The goal is to bring him back at some point this year and be healthy and compete and get back to ‘IT’ status. That’s our goal and our responsibility to him.”

If that was how Cleveland planned to approach this situation, though, it raises a rather fundamental question: why bother to have a news conference at all? After all, it was Thomas himself who declared, “I am not damaged … I’ll be back, and I’ll be the same player,” to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski just last week, as the details of the trade were still being hammered out by the Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.

The issue is it seems like no one has any idea when Thomas is going to be back this season — and the Cavaliers clearly didn’t want to have to go into deep discussions about it. Notice, for example, how Altman said that the goal was for Thomas to be back “at some point this year.” That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Thomas, who has yet to begin running, returning anytime soon.

While videos of Thomas shooting have been posted on social media, none of them have shown him running or making any lateral movements — crucial things to be able to do to return to action, and far more so for a player like Thomas, a 5-foot-9 flash who needs every bit of strength, speed and agility he can muster to play at the kind of level he did in Boston. And while Thomas said plenty of fascinating things in his piece about the trade that posted Wednesday on The Players Tribune — from his love for Boston, to how it felt to be traded, to his excitement over pairing with LeBron James — there was one word conspicuously absent from the piece: hip.

The one thing Altman would say is that the rehabilitation plan for Thomas is “non surgical” — which led Thomas to smile and say, “Y’all hear that? Everybody wants to be doctors now.”

The line drew laughs, but it still doesn’t mask the obvious truth here: it has been 118 days since Thomas last played basketball, on May 12 against his current team in the Eastern Conference finals.

When will he do so again?

That’s obviously an awkward situation, which is why Cleveland would want to avoid discussing it. And, truthfully, it probably doesn’t matter when — or if — Thomas comes back this season. Even if he never steps foot on the court for the Cavaliers, Cleveland should still have enough firepower to make it back to a fourth straight NBA Finals if LeBron James remains as healthy and effective as he has been. The Eastern Conference remains remarkably weak after the top few teams, and Derrick Rose — for all of the faults in his game — will at least allow the Cavaliers to soak up minutes at the point guard position throughout the regular season.

And if the Golden State Warriors avoid any significant injury issues, it is currently quite difficult, if not impossible, to see a path to the Cavaliers or any of the 28 other NBA teams preventing them from winning a second straight championship, and a third in four seasons.

This is another reason, despite the star power that comes with Thomas’s arrival and the oddity of Cleveland and Boston swapping all-star point guards in this trade, that the most important asset the Cavaliers received was not any of the three players sitting on the dais Thursday, but the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected first round pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

If healthy, Thomas can provide much of the same scoring punch — if not as much or more — that Irving brought to Cleveland. And he’s known for tough talk — from his expectations for Cleveland relayed in his Players Tribune piece (“You really going to throw three guys on me, when I’m sharing a court with the best basketball player on the planet? Nah, I don’t think so”) to declaring last July that the Celtics would need “to bring the Brinks truck out” to retain him.

That’s why it matters that Thomas and the Cavs basically issued a “no comment” Thursday about his injury. That silence says more than even a loquacious player such as Thomas could.

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