Did you see the look on Carmelo Anthony‘s reaction when an Oklahoma City reporter broached the idea of him coming off the bench?
That’s the reaction of most NBA players. They give lip service to doing whatever is best for the team, or wanting to be on the floor at the end of games more than the start, but at the end of the day they desperately want to start.
Which is what makes Tristan Thompson‘s move to the bench in Cleveland different — he’s good with it. Tyronn Lue is making the right move starting Kevin Love at the five and Jae Crowder at the four, and Thompson willingly accepted his move to the bench. From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“Tristan has been a big part of what we do. I hated having that conversation, but it was great,” Lue said. “He was phenomenal. That’s what it’s all about. You hate having those conversations, but he was great. He was like, ‘Man, whatever you need me to do, Coach. I’ll just go for Sixth Man of the Year. I understand what’s going on.’ … When you have those talks, usually they don’t go that good. But he was great about it.”
“I’m going to go for Sixth Man of the Year, put myself in position to do that,” Thompson said after the scrimmage. “Just play hard, though. I’m not going to look too much into it, but if you’re going to come off the bench, might as well have a little goal — and I feel like with the second unit we have and the energy that I bring off the bench, I’ll put myself in pretty good position. Especially when you win.”
That’s professionalism. Sure, it helps that Thompson is going to get paid the rest of that five-year, $82 million contract whether he starts or not, but a lot of players still would have whined and pushed back (or, passively aggressively pushed back) against what they saw as a demotion.
With Kyrie Irving gone to Boston and Isaiah Thomas not playing until January, the changes to the front line were needed in Cleveland to get offense and spacing. The team needed shooting and passing around LeBron James and Derrick Rose (the primary ball handlers), and this lineup gives them that. J.R. Smith will be part of that starting lineup too, he has become a quality catch-and-shoot guy. Then the bench will have Dwyane Wade creating shots, with guys like Jeff Green and eventually Rose (once Thomas returns), and that unit will need the hard picks and the grinding, dirty work that Thompson provides. The Cavaliers lineups are better this way.
It’s just easier now that Thompson accepted it.