Outside of Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson is the longest tenured member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It's easy to forget just how much turnover the Cavs have experienced over the last four seasons, but Thompson has managed to be one of its only constants. Thompson has started every game over the last two seasons, but is entering a pivotal year in his career. Last season it appeared as though Thompson took two steps back in order to take one forward. While he showed growth throughout the year, he was unable to put together a complete season to reflect that growth. Now, on a team full of stars playing in a league with a salary cap, he will need to not only need to continue to show growth, but that the salary he will command will be a smart allocation of the team's money.
Brendan Bowers of SLAM interviewed Thompson on the upcoming season and what he has done to perform for it. The whole interview is worth reading, but here are some of the best quotes featured in the article:
On what he focused on throughout the summer:
I've been continuing to work on finishing around the rim this summer... That's something I looked at after the year as an area I can improve on-finishing around the rim with quick finishes. Sometimes you can't dunk everything. So you have to get some quick finishes, and finish in different ways around the rim. I've also been watching a lot of film and working on becoming a better player defensively. I feel like I can be a key factor for our team this season in those areas.
One of the most obvious reasons for Thompson's issues around the rim is the large gather he takes before going up for a dunk or layup attempt. Him utilizing the box on the backboard and adding some variance to his moves should help to reduce the number of times he gets blocked around the rim.
There's been talk this week of Thompson potentially starting at the center position next to Kevin Love. Thompson appears to believe that the two compliment each other well stating the following:
But the way he plays the game, there is no reason why we can’t play together. He’s a stretch-4 who gets a lot of attention from shooting the three so well. And when he’s on the block, you have to double-team him down there. If you don’t double him, he’ll score or get fouled. And he’s a heckuva passer too. So I’m excited to play with a guy like that, especially on the perimeter picking and popping. That should leave the paint open for rebounding or a basket down there. I think we can complement each other and play off each other pretty well.
Last season Thompson's performance improved noticeably after the acquisition of Spencer Hawes [Editor's note: and the jettisoning of Andrew Bynum] . The spacing that Hawes provided was something the had been foreign to Thompson throughout his tenure with the Cavs. Hawes is also a very talented passer and the two appeared to blend well with one another. It isn't a stretch to state that Kevin Love is a considerably better player than Hawes. Love possesses all of the positive traits that Hawes brought to the table at an elite level. While neither player has had a reputation as a rim protector in the NBA, it remains to be seen how that pairing would fare playing together.
One of the main talking points surrounding Tristan's furture with Cavs has been what type of extension would be necessary to retain his services, something that Thompson claims he has not been focused on:
I’m just focused on training camp and getting the season started... I’m excited for the season. I’m not worried about any of that stuff. It’s not even on my mind.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Thompson has been around for a long time and has gone through a lot of the same highs and lows as all the Cavs fans that have watched this team over the past few years. He had this to say about the support of the fans and what it's meant to him:
The people of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio have been loyal ever since I’ve been drafted to the Cavs. So they definitely deserved it. When he decided to come back and return, I was most happy for them. All the loyal fans that came to the games when we were on five-game losing streaks, seven-game losing streaks. This season is for them. Our work is not done by any means; we have a long, long way to go. Everything looks good on paper but that doesn’t count until the ball is tossed up and you play those 48 minutes. But it’s an exciting time in Cleveland right now.
It is an exciting time in Cleveland right now. It'll be interesting to see where Thompson fits into that picture.