Celtics getting a good one in Tristan Thompson, who was more than just the Cavaliers’ ironman

  • Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson dives for the ball during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer

  • Tristan Thompson (left) dunks against Boston during the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals. The former Cavalier signed with the Celtics on Saturday. Charles Krupa file

Akron Beacon Journal
Published: 11/22/2020 11:57:06 AM
Modified: 11/22/2020 11:56:50 AM

Tristan Thompson was more than just the Cavaliers’ ironman.

The nine-year veteran center became their leader after the second departure of LeBron James, willing to shepherd a young team through the perils of rebuilding.

In six of his final nine games as a Cav, Thompson came off the bench, drawing praise from his new coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

But above all, Thompson was an anchor during the Cavs’ run to the 2016 NBA championship and four consecutive Finals appearances, content to do the dirty work while the Big Three of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love dominated the headlines.

A league source confirmed Saturday night that free agent Thompson was headed to the Boston Celtics on a two-year, $19 million contract. The Celtics used their full mid-level exception on Thompson.

Deals can become official on Sunday.

With Matthew Dellavedova also a free agent, Thompson’s departure leaves Love as the only Cav under contract from the 2016 title team.

In 2019-20, Thompson played out the final year of a five-year, $82 million deal that paid him $18.5 million. While Thompson preferred to join a playoff contender, Love and Larry Nance Jr. had lobbied for the Cavs to retain Thompson.

“I got to see the evolution in his game, as a leader on and off the floor and just how fun he is to be around,” Love said of Thompson during a June 12 Zoom call. “(He) has really grown to be like a brother of mine.”

Thompson, 29, made the most of his contract year, averaging a career-high 12.0 points and 10.1 rebounds, just one-tenth off his career-best from 2018-19.

“I love what Tristan brings,” Love said then. “He works extremely hard. He lets his effort and that motor do so much. He’s just so valuable for this team and this organization. I really hope that he’s back.”

Thompson set the franchise record by playing in 477 consecutive games from Feb. 10, 2012, to April 4, 2017. But in January, 2019, he said that determination was misguided, believing it led to injuries later in his career.

“It was fun, but realistically it’s a dumb streak,” Thompson said then. “If I could do it all over again, I’d sit some games out.”

Thompson ranks in the Cavs’ top 10 in several categories, including offensive rebounds (2,115, second), defensive rebounds (3,278, fourth), total rebounds (5,393, third), blocked shots (447, sixth), games (619, seventh), field-goal percentage (.518, seventh) and rebounds per game (8.7, 10th).

Thompson posted career averages of 9.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists.

Andre Drummond, brought in from Detroit in a stunning trade deadline deal in February, took over as the Cavs’ starting center, forcing Thompson to the bench. But Bickerstaff said Thompson ceded the spot he’d held for nearly nine seasons right away.

“The conversation we had, it was never an issue,” Bickerstaff said in March. “He didn’t come out pouting or doing anything to the detriment of the team, he came out with a fire in his belly. That’s what we need. That’s leadership.”

Thompson showed that leadership when James left for the LA Lakers before the 2018-19 season, but took more upon himself in 2019-20.

“Sacrifice is easy until it happens to you,” Bickerstaff said that day in March. “When you’re used to playing 30 minutes, it’s easy to tell your teammate, ‘Sacrifice for the team.’ But then when it happens to you, how do you respond? I think he’s responded in a great way.”

Realizing he might have played his last game for the Cavs, Thompson reflected on his days in Cleveland during a May 14 Zoom call.

“Memories have been great,” he said. “Getting drafted in 2011, winning a championship, then being in the lottery, been at the bottom and top. I think it’s a great experience for my career, especially with one team and going through all those different storylines, it’s been a blessing.

“Being in my ninth season, never thought in a million years I would have the success I’ve had, so for me it’s just taking it one day at a time and enjoying every bit of it. Meeting so many great people, being part of a franchise and city that’s been through so many tough times and being able to break the 52-year drought – that was the most important thing I think in my time here. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Stay informed with our free email updates
Concord Monitor Daily Headlines
Concord Monitor Breaking News
Concord Monitor Dining & Entertainment
Concord Monitor Report For America Education
Concord Monitor Report For America Health
Concord Monitor Real Estate
Concord Monitor Sports
Concord Monitor Suncook Valley
Concord Monitor Contests & Promotions
Concord Monitor Weekly Most Popular
Concord Monitor Granite Geek
Concord Monitor Monitor Marquee
Concord Monitor Hopkinton
Concord Monitor Politics
Concord Monitor MY CONCORD
Concord Monitor Franklin

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy

Customer Service

Social Media


View All Sections

Part of the Newspapers of New England Family