THOMPSON PROVIDING VETERAN LEADERSHIP TO YOUNG CAVS TEAM
By: Holly MacKenzie
TORONTO, Ont. (December 17, 2019) - On Monday night, Tristan Thompson and the Cleveland Cavaliers made their first of two trips to Toronto this season. The Cavaliers were bested by the Raptors 133-113, but Thompson finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. It’s been a challenging season for the Cavaliers, the second straight in rebuilding mode following LeBron James’ move to the Western Conference to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thompson is averaging 13.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game in his ninth season in the league, all with Cleveland.
“He’s persistent at going at and battling after rebounds on the offensive and the defensive end,” Cavaliers head coach John Beilein said. “That’s a quality that is hard for people to do.”
In addition to winning a championship in 2016, Thompson and the Cavs went to four straight NBA Finals from 2015-2018. After finishing 19-63 during the 2018-19 season, Cleveland moved to 6-21 this season following Monday’s loss. Despite the struggles for his own team, Thompson discussed what it means for the Larry O’Brien Trophy to be in his hometown for the rest of this season.
“It was huge for the city, huge for the country in general,” he said after Cleveland’s morning shootaround on Monday. “In Toronto, basketball is on a rise. It’s great for the country.”
Thompson also fielded questions about the Senior Men’s National Team, praising head coach Nick Nurse’s dedication to Canada Basketball after coaching the Raptors to the NBA Championship.
“For him to be able to take time out of his summer, especially after winning a championship to coach our national team says a lot about his character and how much he cares about Canada Basketball,” Thompson said.
“It’s good that guys are having time in their schedule to play for the national team,” he said of the rush of NBA players who have recently committed to suiting up for Canada next summer. “You’ve got a lot of pros [in the NBA] and we’ve got more coming every year. The fact that guys are stepping up and making themselves available to play is huge. It’s great for Canada Basketball.”
Despite the Cavaliers struggles this season, Thompson remains at the top of the scouting report for opponents. Nurse praised Thompson’s rebounding abilities during his pre-game address to the media.
“I think that Tristan is always going to be right up there at the top of one of the best rebounding bigs in the league,” Nurse said. “Gosh, he’s sure had some amazing games in this building.
“I also think he has a good feel for the game. I think he’s a good passer as well, a really good spacer. He knows what he’s doing out there on that and defensively he’s got good feet. He can switch.”
Beilein acknowledged the toll that the team’s losing stretches have had on veterans like Thompson.
“Every day it’s frustrating,” he said. “Last year was another tough year for us so it has been frustrating for him. He just has to continue to press on. Don’t worry about the last game, worry about the next play, what’s in front of you. Keep giving that great effort you have so many times.”
Through the ups and downs of the past two seasons, Thompson has remained steadfast in his approach, whether during practice or game time.
“He has been a Cav his entire life and he has a lot of pride so he’s working really hard to lead this young team and do the best he can,” Beilein said.
During Monday’s game it was Thompson who scored Cleveland’s final basket in the 133-113 loss, still battling just as hard for a basket in the final seconds as he was in the opening minutes.
As the longest-tenured player on the roster, it’s obvious Thompson sees himself as a leader for a young Cavs squad. His dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed by Cleveland’s coaching staff.
“He’s been a warrior,” Beilein said. “He’ll go after virtually every rebound every single time with everything he’s got. He’s been a warrior in so many games and has really helped us with the successes we’ve had and some of the tough losses we’ve had we wouldn’t be in it without him.”