INDEPENDENCE: Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas is so encouraged by how the rehabilitation on his right hip is going that he believes he’s still on track to earn a max contract after this season.

“My mindset is to get healthy and get 100 percent, and then when it comes to basketball, I know what I can bring. I don’t think there’s any more proving. … Being on this platform and being able to compete for a championship is going to allow me to be a max player,” Thomas said.

“Now, I’m as positive as I can be. I know I can play at an MVP-caliber level.”

The Cavs announced they expect Thomas to be able to play in games by Jan. 1, with the Christmas Day showdown against the defending champion Golden State Warriors not out of the question.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Derrick Rose will be the starting point guard until Thomas returns. When the Cavs sent Kyrie Irving to Boston for two-time All-Star Thomas and a package of players and draft picks, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thomas would not be ready to start the season after missing the final three games of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Cavs said Thomas has shown significant progress in the past three weeks after suffering what was reported as a torn labrum. He has been working on hip mobilization exercises and in the weight room, along with hydrotherapy and on-court shooting. Thomas has also been building strength through nutritional means.

“Physically I’m in a good place. I’m making progress every day. I’m getting stronger. These last three weeks, I’ve been able to be with this training staff six days a week,” Thomas said.

“Since the end of May I haven’t done anything, so the process now is getting that strength back and getting that muscle to fire again and it’s firing again. It’s about trying to get all the inflammation out of my hip and getting the strength back to where it was. Each day is better than the previous day. … I’m able to get on the court and shooting and move around a little bit and it’s really good progress.”

With one year remaining on his contract, Thomas turns 29 on Feb. 7. He said his hip was fine until March 13 when the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns fell on him. Thomas re-aggravated the injury when facing the Cavs in May.

LeBron on Wade

The Chicago Bulls reached agreement on a buyout with guard Dwyane Wade Sunday night and the Cavs are considered by some as the front-runner to sign the 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion after he clears waivers. If so, it would be for the NBA minimum $2.3 million, less than other championship contenders can offer.

James, who won two titles in four years with Wade in Miami, said he would probably reach out to Wade, whom he’s talked to all summer.

“I would love to have D-Wade a part of this team,” James said. “I think he brings another championship pedigree, championship DNA. He brings another player to the team who can get guys involved, can make plays and also has a great basketball mind. I think it would be great to have him here and obviously our front office did some great things throughout the summer. … But it’s not up to me. It’s up to D-Wade if he can clear waivers and then it’s up to our front office. But I hope we can bring him here.”

Dakota Smith update

Cavs guard J.R. Smith said his daughter Dakota, who weighed less than 1 pound when she was born five months premature in January, now weighs about 17 pounds. She was hospitalized until May.

“She’s doing great. She’s a miracle. She’s laughing, she’s trying to talk as much as she can. As long as you sit there and talk to her, she’ll talk to you right back,” Smith said. “She’s breathing on her own, no machines.”

Keeping his mouth shut

Kevin Love nearly ended up in Denver this summer in a three-team trade that would have brought Paul George to the Cavs, but Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard nixed the deal at the last minute. George later ended up with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Love’s name has come up multiple times in trade rumors since he arrived in an August 2014 trade, but he’s not sure he’s numb to it now.

“I don’t know if numb is the word,” Love said. “You’ve been around me enough to know I find the humor in things. Some of the things are laughable. We’ve seen guys on several teams and throughout the course of history of the game, maybe a coach or a GM or a certain player has sworn that either they’re going to keep him or they’re going to sign this player, free agency and they get a better deal. It’s the better offer theory.

“I just take it with a grain of salt at this point and know that wherever I am, I want to be here. It’s well-documented — I want to compete for a championship. But at the end of the day I know that it’s a business and anything can happen at any given moment. I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep working and keep my damn mouth shut and go out there and try and perform.”

Notes

The training camp roster includes ex-Cavs center Kendrick Perkins, who participated in the workouts at UC-Santa Barbara last week, and guard John Holland, a 6-foot-5 second-year player from Boston University. ... The quote of the day may have come from Lue, when asked about James’ workload after Irving’s departure. “Probably add a minute to his minutes, so probably 38½,” Lue said. “We’ll see.”