This summer Tristan Thompson won’t have much time to kick back and relax. Instead, he will be busy sweating through grueling workouts with the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff in empty gyms and weight rooms.
Not exactly a flashy or glamourous summer for a talented rookie that is used to playing in front of adoring fans in packed arenas, but Thompson’s rookie season averages of 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds aren’t the kind of numbers a top five pick should average.
A big reason why his stats were lower than anticipated is because of a shortened training camp combined with no chance to play in summer league for the Cavs last summer.
Still, that’s not a valid excuse because the other rookie on his team, Kyrie Irving, missed the same opportunities and battled through injury problems and was named Rookie of the Year.
Even though Thompson had his share of growing pains during his rookie season, he earned the respect of his head coach by putting in a lot of extra work and playing with energy during the season.
“I’m very excited about his growth,” Byron Scott boasted late in the season. “We knew when we got him that he was going to be pretty raw on the offensive end. One of the things that attracted us to Tristan from the get go was just how hard he plays. That is something he has continued to do through this season. There have only been one or two games that I don’t think he has come out with the kind of energy I need or expect from him.”
Thompson could put in all he the extra work he wanted during the regular season, but with practice time at a premium, the reality is there’s only so much improvement that can be accomplished.
The Cavaliers coaching staff realizes the true test of his growth and progress will come during training camp when they could assess how much he has improved during the course of this summer.
“I think he has progressed well, but the season is not the time to get better,” Scott explained. “It’s the summer. You have to spend a lot of time each day working on the things you need to get better at so when training camp comes around you’re comfortable with some of those changes that you’ve made. I think he has progressed and gotten better but after this summer he is going to come back a more refined player.”
Last summer Thompson had the chance to work out with Tim Duncan – a great opportunity for any young post player – but he missed out on the chance to play in Summer League and work with the Cavs coaching staff on a daily basis.
That should change this summer and it will allow Thompson to grow and mature the way the coaching staff envisions.
“He has this summer where we get our hands on him for the full summer,” Scott raved. “We really get to work out with him and work on some of the things that we know are going to be really important to his future. We didn’t get that last summer. Him and Kyrie (Irving), it’s hard for rookies this year to come in because of the shortened season. Not really having a training camp. Not really having a summer league. It was a difficult situation.”
Thompson felt his rookie season provided him with a great chance to learn what being a pro entails. When playing high school and college basketball, he was able to get by on his athleticism, but the problem for Thompson is the fact that everybody in the NBA is a freakish athlete.
The biggest lesson for Thompson during his rookie season involves being patient and having the game slow down.
“I feel from the beginning of the season to now I’ve learned a lot more about the game,” Thompson admitted during a chat we had while he was in Toronto. “Patience is definitely the key to this level of basketball. The quickest guys are not usually the best; just look at Tim Duncan. Sorry to say, he’s not the fastest guy in the NBA, but he gets what he wants. Paul Pierce, too. Those guys are patient during games and it makes them effective.”
While the Cleveland Cavaliers have been patient with Tristan Thompson this season, it’s clear they expect him to put in a lot of work this summer and for it to pay dividends on the court next season.
How well his sophomore season goes hinges on how much work Thompson is willing to put into his game this summer when he’s far from the media spotlight or adoration of fans.